Experts Blog

Apple AirTag Tracking Without Consent
TrackerPayton

If someone can get near you, or accessories like your favorite backpack, sneaking into your life some tracking technology is relatively easy for them to put in place. This client advisory unpacks the recent events of VIPs being tracked by Tile or Apple AirTag technology.

Given the recent marketing push by Apple, the new AirTag appears to be the tracker of choice among consumers and would be stalkers.

A few weeks ago, a Sports Illustrated model reported that a stranger tried to track her location using an Apple AirTag. To date our clients have reported finding trackers, including AirTag competitor models, on jackets, bikes, inside purses, computers/work bags, and in car glove compartments. It can be planted almost any place at any time.

With an ounce of prevention, you can become more aware of tracking technology to protect yourself.

Tracking someone without their consent is quite common:

  • For years people have reported having their homes “bugged” with hidden listening devices, some have complained of tracker devices hidden on their cars, and people have complained that spyware, stalkerware, and other apps reveal the whereabouts of their smartphone.
  • The tracking technology of Apple AirTag and its competitors is smaller than your hand, relatively low cost, and fairly easy to use.
  • The new and growing trend is to use it for useful tasks such as finding lost keys as well as bad acts like tracking someone without their consent.

Tracking Devices:

  • The Apple AirTag is not the first tracker of its kind. One competing product, the Tile, was released in 2014.
  • These small devices called trackers connect to an app via Bluetooth and GPS.
  • The Apple AirTag then takes this further by taking advantage of Apple’s vast device network and their long standing “Find My Device” app to locate the tag and any item in its vicinity.

Unmasking Tracking Devices:

  • Apple did think about safety in the initial design of AirTag.
  • If you own an Apple device running operating system 14.5 or newer you can ask to be alerted with notifications.
  • However, operatives with nefarious intent always look for the workaround. If you receive an “AirTag Found Moving with You” alert and you do not own an AirTag, that is a sign you are being tracked. Apple is working with Android to send alerts to Android device owners.
  • The Google store has a “Tracker Detect” app as well.

Preventing Tracking Without Consent:

  • Conduct a search periodically: Look for the technology. If you see something attached to keys, purses, or work bags that you do not recognize, it could be a tracker.
  • Consider a Bluetooth tracker: An unknown device you find in your house or on a personal item could mean you are being tracked.
  • Almost all of the new trackers, including Apple AirTag, work with access to Bluetooth.
    There are Bluetooth tracking apps such as Bluetooth Smart Scanner or BLE Scanner 4.0 that you can use to scan your surroundings.
  • These apps will not tell you who owns the technology but they will tell you if there is an unknown device near you.

What to Do If You Find a Rogue Apple AirTag:

  • You can find the Apple AirTag's serial number through Apple's Find My Device app, which you access through the Apple App Store.
  • Launch the app and hold the AirTag near your phone.
  • Tap the AirTag and you will see the serial number
  • You can place an Android phone near the AirTag and tap. A web browser launches and takes you to a webpage with the serial number.
  • If you decide to contact law enforcement, the serial number might help them track down the owner of the tag.
  • Disable the AirTag.
  • Remove the battery by twisting the back off.
  • Note that this alerts the owner of the tracker.

Being tracked without your permission is not okay. If you discover that you are being tracked, consider filing a police report.

If you feel your personal safety could be in danger, consider developing an emergency plan now and share it with people you trust. Resources such as the ones available at this website can help by providing ideas about how to build your personal safety plan: https://www.techsafety.org/resources-survivors/technology-safety-plan.