Everyone knew Apple’s AirTags were coming but, now that they’ve officially been announced, we have a better idea of what they can do.
AirTags function very similarly to a Tile or Samsung’s Galaxy Smart Tags. At a basic level, they use Bluetooth to find your lost items like your keys, wallet or bag. However, AirTags are paving the way in one specific area with the inclusion of anti-stalking technology.
How can AirTags counter stalking?
Devices like AirTags and Tiles are intended to help users find a lost item. However, there’s nothing stopping someone from using an AirTag to track a person, which can make them a huge security risk.
It would be all too easy for someone to slip a small tracking device into the bag of a person they are stalking. To counter this potential situation, Apple has come up with a preventative technology built within its AirTags.
Described in Apple’s press release is a new iOS feature that allows devices to detect AirTags that aren’t with their correct owners. According to Apple:
iOS devices can also detect an AirTag that isn’t with its owner, and notify the user if an unknown AirTag is seen to be traveling with them from place to place over time. And even if users don’t have an iOS device, an AirTag separated from its owner for an extended period of time will play a sound when moved to draw attention to it. If a user detects an unknown AirTag, they can tap it with their iPhone or NFC-capable device and instructions will guide them to disable the unknown AirTag.
This is an industry first and a really smart way for Apple to alert users if someone seems to be unsolicitedly tracking them. It’s expected that Samsung’s Galaxy Tags will be implementing a similar feature soon.
The feature should be rolled out this week with the iOS 14.5 update.
How does it work?
Apple’s AirTags are a different type of tracking device thanks to their access to the Find My network. This is the same network Apple users can currently tap into to find their lost iPhone, iPad, or AirPods.
This Find My network basically acts as a hub for all of Apple’s Bluetooth tracking enabled devices. It helps to both find your devices, and others, using the data from each device through secure end-to-end encryption.
Therefore, it can also be used to alert a user if a device that is with them isn’t theirs.
This Find My networks raises its own privacy concerns, however, Apple reiterated its stance on security saying:
“Communication with the Find My network is end-to-end encrypted so that only the owner of a device has access to its location data, and no one, including Apple, knows the identity or location of any device that helped find it.”
Apple has also released an in-depth guide detailing what to do if you’re alerted that an AirTag that isn’t yours is moving with you.
Apple’s AirTags are available for pre-order now and will go on sale on April 30.