Apple Acknowledges ‘Phantom’ AirTag Stalking Alerts, Shares Temporary Solution

BY Chandraveer Mathur

Published 6 May 2022

AirTag white

Despite initial security concerns, Apple’s AirTag has turned into a reliable object tracker, thanks to Apple’s constant efforts to prevent unwanted tracking, stalking, and general misuse of the AirTag. However, one of these sophisticated features designed to help prevent misuse frequently sent people on a wild goose chase for the AirTag that never followed them.

In a detailed report explaining the issue, the Wall Street Journal digs deep to uncover the cause of the “phantom AirTag alerts.” To get you up to speed, iPhone users are alerted of the presence of rogue AirTags by the Find My network if the tracker has been following them around. The iPhone maker also developed an Android app to curb unwanted tracking. This alert gives the potential stalking victim an option to locate the object tracker. It also offers the option to involve local law enforcement authorities if required.

However, WSJ reports that “in recent weeks, some iPhone users have begun receiving alerts, often in the middle of the night, for AirTags that might not be in their path at all.” The victims of such false alerts are shown a map of the AirTag’s location and path.

“The maps on phantom AirTag alerts share a similar pattern: straight red lines radiating out from the user’s location. If an AirTag were in motion (perhaps flying?) along these paths, it would be crossing in the middle of city streets, passing through construction zones, even penetrating walls.”

These false warnings deprive you of a peaceful night’s sleep and could send you chasing after an AirTag that never followed you, to begin with. The more significant issue stemming from this bug is the inability to distinguish a genuine alert from a bug-triggered one. Thankfully, Apple has acknowledged the problem and shared remedial action users could try.

“An Apple spokesman said that such alerts could have resulted from an iPhone receiving area Wi-Fi signals that temporarily confused its location services. A potential fix would be to go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and toggle the switch off and on while Wi-Fi is enabled on the iPhone. He also said that in more densely populated areas, AirTags owned by others nearby could inadvertently trigger unwanted alerts.”

Apple has promised additional improvements to the anti-stalking measures baked into AirTags during this year. Although an exact timeline for their rollout remains unknown, we hope the promised “improved tracking alert logic” will rectify the issue of ghost alerts and prevent it from rearing its ugly head again.

[Via Wall Street Journal]