Apple has announced changes to its AirTags, a device for tracking lost items, after reports that it is being misused to track people.
The new changes will make suspicious tags easier to find, and will alert users that an AirTag is travelling with them earlier than was previously the case.
The changes come in the wake of numerous reports by women who claim they had been followed by stalkers using AirTags.
The Apple AirTag is a small device designed to find lost items via Apple’s ‘Find My’ network. The product, launched last April, can be attached to keys, bags, or dogs’ collars. Similarly, the AirTag can be surreptitiously slipped into a person’s bag or under a car seat to track a person’s location.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Apple said, “AirTag was designed to help people locate their personal belongings, not to track people or another person’s property, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms any malicious use of our products.
“Unwanted tracking has long been a societal problem, and we took this concern seriously in the design of AirTag. It’s why the Find My network is built with privacy in mind, uses end-to-end encryption, and why we innovated with the first-ever proactive system to alert you of unwanted tracking.”
The company highlighted some positive stories related to the device, including that of a parent whose child lost critical medicine on the bus, and who was later able to find it thanks to an AirTag placed inside the medical kit.
However, it also acknowledged that it has also “seen reports of bad actors attempting to misuse AirTag for malicious or criminal purposes”.
Striving to make the consequences of misuse clearer, Apple said every user setting up their AirTag for the first time will see a message warning that using the device to track people without consent is a crime in many regions around the world.
Additionally, the company said that an existing function, warning iPhone users (and Android users too, if they download an app) of “unwanted tracking” if an unknown AirTag moves with them, will take less time to issue the alert.
Users of the latest iPhones (11, 12 and 13) will also be able to use “precision finding” to see the distance and direction to an unknown AirTag after they have been alerted, a feature previously only available to the device’s owner.
Apple also said that the sound iOS users receiving an unwanted tracking alert can play to help them find the unknown AirTag will be adjusted, using more of the loudest tones to make an unknown AirTag more easily findable.
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