Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Apple Is Working on More Ways to Reduce Abuse of AirTags for iOS Users

In response to concerns about people using AirTags in malicious and abusive ways, Apple says it is working on more ways to notify users being tracked. The changes coming soonest are pretty weak: Apple says it will remind users when setting up an AirTag that tracking people without their consent is wrong, and it also says it will refine its wording when alerting users about AirPods or Find My accessories.

But the changes coming later this year are more promising. Apple says it will enable Precision Finding to help someone locate an AirTag they may be carrying, and add audio alerts on iOS devices. Unknown AirTags will also notify their carrier sooner.

But all of these software changes are, necessarily, iOS software updates. The sole recourse available for Android users is downloading the Tracker Detect app — which has apparently been installed over a hundred thousand times since it launched in mid-December — and manually scanning for AirTags every so often.

Apple also confirms it can help investigators find someone associated with an AirTag used abusively:

Every AirTag has a unique serial number, and paired AirTags are associated with an Apple ID. Apple can provide the paired account details in response to a subpoena or valid request from law enforcement. We have successfully partnered with them on cases where information we provided has been used to trace an AirTag back to the perpetrator, who was then apprehended and charged.

But this is only helpful if someone is able to find the AirTag first, or as evidence in a trial. Again, I do not see any benefits for Android users. Even in the U.S., where iOS is the market share leader, Android still represents 47% of smartphone users. That represents tens of millions of people in the U.S. alone who are vulnerable to being tracked by an AirTag to a precise degree, thanks to iOS’ large market share. What about them?