Apple AirTags are set to be useful accessories for tracking down lost items, but what’s to stop that feature being used against you? Apple’s built-in anti-stalker features, that’s what.
The iOS 14.5 beta contains new references to AirTags, but iOS developer Benjamin Mayo (opens in new tab) has discovered a hidden feature that should prevent anyone from exploiting AirTags’ tracking capabilities to keep tabs on you.
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AirTags aren’t expected to feature GPS tracking, but everything we’ve heard says they can use ultra-wideband signals to ping passing iPhones. That gives the owner a rough idea on where a specific AirTag is located, letting them track it down for themselves.
Obviously, this could be exploited. If someone were to slip an AirTag onto your person, it could continually ping passing iPhones (possibly even your own) and let someone spy on your whereabouts whenever they feel like it. Fortunately. Apple has already anticipated this with a safety feature.
The setting is on by default which makes sense, but the fact you can turn it off at all probably means that this fires false positive alerts in some circumstances.March 4, 2021
It looks like iOS 14.5 will be able to notice when unknown AirTags are hanging around, and warn you about it. Those safety features appear to be on by default, but you do seem to have the option to turn them off. Why would you? Only you can answer that. But as Mayo points out, the fact that the feature can be turned off suggests that Apple may have experienced some issues with false positives.
Say, for instance, you’re out walking with a friend who has an AirTag in their wallet. Your iPhone may pick that up and get suspicious. Even though it’s not, because your friend only happens to be using it to keep tabs on their own possessions.
Of course, we’re only speculating about the ins and outs of the system because AirTags haven’t actually launched yet. Things could change by the time we get a public release of iOS 14.5, or we could find the AirTag system is robust enough that false positives are a very rare occurrence.
We’re just going to have to wait and see what happens when Apple finally unveils AirTags to the world. The company is rumored to have an Apple Spring 2021 event coming later this month, and we’re hoping that will be the AirTags’ time to shine.