On February 10, Apple rolled out changes to the Find My network to combat the misuse of AirTags for stalking and tracking people and objects. The changes to the AirTags will be rolled out in a phased manner via software updates. The company also touched upon several smaller improvements for AirTags and the Find My network that would be rolled out gradually over the course of this year.
Improvements in the Find My Network
Apple explained that AirTags were created to help people locate belongings, not track other people and their possessions. It condemned the misuse of AirTag for these purposes. It said it will display a new privacy warning when you set up an AirTag, to deter people with malicious intentions. The on-screen notification reiterates that an AirTag is linked to an Apple ID, and using them to track people is a criminal offense. Additionally, the warning also explicitly states (in language that is subject to change) that law enforcement agencies can ask for identifying information of an AirTag’s owner at any time.
Apple already distributes an app that alerts you if unidentified object trackers are found following you around. Taking this initiative a step further, the iPhone maker says it will do away with the “Unknown Accessory” alert message in an upcoming software update because it causes confusion. Apple specifies that only the AirPods 3, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and third-party accessories can generate an “Unkown Accessory Detected” warning, which some Find My users have misinterpreted as an alert generated when an unidentified AirTag follows them around. The company says its new alert will be worded to expressly state that unidentified AirPods are in your vicinity.
Apple is also updating the Unwanted Tracking support article on its website to further elaborate upon the safety features AirTags have. Explanations have been expanded for which accessories can trigger “Unknown Accessory Detected” alerts, what those alerts would look like, and what you can do if you receive such an alert. Instructions for finding and disabling AirTags have also been provided in greater detail than before.
Plans for the Future
Apple also plans to improve the Find My network further later this year. The iPhone maker intends to implement several new features, such as Precision Finding, that would help iPhone 11, iPhone 12, and iPhone 13 users locate unwanted AirTags precisely, just the way they find their object trackers. The company is also tweaking the alert for unidentified AirTags stalking you, so it pops up sooner.
Apple is also working on a system to alert an AirTag owner with a sound if they accidentally forget it somewhere. An accompanying alert will pop up on the owner’s iPhone or iPad, so they can use a combination of the sound and Precision Finding to reunite with their AirTag. Apple is also trying to make the AirTag’s sound louder and easier to hear by changing the tone sequence to use more of the louder tones that draw people’s attention.
The company did not outline a timeline for releasing these features but confirms that they are in various stages of development, set to be rolled out gradually during the course of the year. The Cupertino giant did not mention any changes related to AirTags for Android users but hinted that there could be developments in the future. To reiterate that it condones the misuse of AirTags for stalking and theft, Apple said it is working actively with law enforcement agencies to address AirTag-related complaints.
Do you think Apple’s changes to the Find My network and the improvements it has lined up for the year would deter people who misuse AirTags for stalking? Tell us in the comments section![Via Apple]