Unwanted tracking using Bluetooth devices like Apple AirTags review is an alarming issue. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover how AirTags and other trackers are being misused for stalking, the dangers and impacts of covert monitoring, as well as actionable tips to detect tracking and protect yourself or loved ones.
What Are AirTags and How Do They Work?
AirTags review are small, coin-sized tracking devices developed by Apple. They work by connecting to Apple’s Find My network and emitting a Bluetooth signal that can be detected by nearby iPhones and other Apple devices. This allows the AirTag’s owner to view its real-time location through the Find My app.
AirTags are intended to help people locate lost items like keys, wallets, or pets. But their tiny size and connectivity to Apple’s vast, crowd-sourced tracking network has also led to them being secretly placed in people’s belongings to track their location without consent.
Other companies like Tile, Chipolo and Samsung offer similar Bluetooth tracking tags. Many of the same risks around unwanted monitoring apply to these devices as well.
The Rising Problem of AirTag Stalking
While location trackers have existed long before AirTags, their small size, wide availability, affordability and integration with Apple’s Find My network makes them uniquely suited for covert, real-time monitoring of people.
Since AirTags launched in April 2021, fears about their potential for stalking and unwanted surveillance have unfortunately proven true. There have been over 150 police reports related to AirTag stalking in the U.S. as of April 2022. Stories of AirTags being slipped into people’s belongings have surfaced across social media and in news reports.
Four people were even charged in an AirTag-related murder when the device was used to track and confront a victim.
Not only AirTags, but Tile, Samsung SmartTags and other Bluetooth trackers have also been misused for stalking and vehicle thefts. This demonstrates the broader issue posed by location tagging technology.
While Apple has made efforts to improve AirTag anti-stalking measures, experts say incidents of unwanted tracking continue rising. Clearly, individuals, lawmakers and companies need to do more to curb this dangerous misuse of technology.
Real-Life Impacts of AirTag Stalking
Being tracked without your knowledge can be terrifying and traumatic. AirTags and other Bluetooth trackers are small and easily hidden, making it extremely difficult for victims to detect.
The impacts of covert monitoring can include:
- Feeling violated, scared and unable to trust others
- Hypervigilance and paranoia
- Disruption to work, education, daily routines
- Relocating homes or changing jobs to avoid being tracked
- Large costs to sweep vehicles and belongings for hidden devices
- Loss of sense of safety and control over personal information
Stalkers can access incredibly detailed location data on victims secretly and in real-time. Unlike GPS tracking apps that may only update periodically, Bluetooth trackers can pinpoint someone’s movements down to the exact room or location.
For victims of domestic abuse and individuals with protective orders against stalkers, this technology can seriously jeopardize their safety. AirTags have also been concerning for tracking elderly individuals without consent. Even if victims discover and disable tracking devices, the impacts of such disturbing violations last long afterwards.
Legislating Against AirTag Stalking
Due to rising concerns around location tag misuse, U.S. states have begun passing laws specifically prohibiting unwanted tracking:
- Indiana passed a bill in March 2022 making it illegal to track someone electronically without consent. This includes using AirTags.
- Kentucky passed a similar law in April 2022 banning non-consensual tracking through any electronic devices.
- Bills were proposed in 2022 in New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania to outlaw secret monitoring with AirTags.
These laws allow victims to pursue civil penalties against offenders who track them without consent. Continued legislation is expected as more lawmakers recognize the dangers of covert monitoring.
How Can You Tell if an AirTag is Tracking You?
If you’re an iPhone user, you may get an “Item Detected” notification if an unknown AirTag travels with you over time. However, some users report these alerts can be inconsistent.
Android users unfortunately cannot receive alerts if an unwanted AirTag is present, since AirTags connect through Apple’s network.
Thankfully, Apple has released an Android app called Tracker Detect that allows scanning a device for nearby AirTags. You do have to proactively open the Tracker Detect app and run a scan though.
Any AirTag separated from its owner will also emit audible chimes at random intervals to alert people of its presence. If you hear an unexplained beeping, it could signal an AirTag is nearby.
Here are signs that may indicate you’re being tracked by an AirTag or other Bluetooth tracker:
- Your iPhone alerts you that an “Unknown Accessory Detected” is moving with you.
- You receive multiple alerts about an “Item Detected” even if you can’t find it.
- You hear intermittent beeping coming from your possessions, car or surroundings.
- You find an unknown device in your belongings, vehicle, pocket or bag.
Trust your instincts – if you suspect you may be tracked, take proactive steps to identify and disable any unknown devices.
What To Do If You Find an AirTag Tracking You
If your smartphone alerts you about an unknown AirTag or Bluetooth tracker nearby, or you locate a suspicious device yourself, here are important steps to take:
- Disable the AirTag by removing its battery if possible. This will make it stop transmitting your location.
- Document the incident by taking photos of the device, making written notes about relevant dates/times/locations, and saving any smartphone alerts or messages.
- Contact law enforcement to file a report. Stalking and unwanted surveillance may be criminal offenses in your state. Provide any evidence you documented.
- Search your belongings thoroughly including your vehicle. Make sure there are no other tracking devices present.
- Change passwords and security settings on your online accounts in case they’ve been improperly accessed.
- Consider alerting your employer or school if you believe you are being stalked. They may be able to assist with safety precautions.
- Seek support services if you have been a victim of domestic violence or stalking for counseling and resources. You do not have to cope alone.
- Enable iPhone tracking alerts if you’re an iOS user so that you are notified in the future about any unknown devices traveling with you.
The most important thing is trusting your instincts – if you suspect you are being stalked or tracked, take immediate steps to identify, disable and report any unauthorized devices.
How To Use AirTags Safely and Prevent Misuse
For legitimate AirTag owners who only intend to track personal items, it’s important to use them ethically and prevent misuse.
- Only use AirTags on your own belongings, never other people. Tracking someone without consent is unethical and illegal.
- Be aware that iOS users will receive alerts if your AirTag travels with them unknowingly for a period of time. This helps deter stalking.
- If someone else is alerted about your AirTag, be prepared to show proof of ownership and explain its intended use.
- Personalize your AirTags with engraving or numbering to deter theft and make it clear they belong to you. Get creative with engraving ideas.
- Sending unwanted AirTags is considered harassment. Never secretly place one in someone else’s belongings without permission.
- If allowing someone else to temporarily use an AirTag, inform them in writing the specific timeframe and item being tracked. Get consent.
- Recognize the AirTag connection to your Apple ID. If misused, an AirTag may be traced back to you legally.
- Monitor alerts about your AirTags separating from you in case one is lost or misplaced.
- Maintain accountability for tracking devices registered to you. Don’t dismiss notifications.
- If selling or gifting an AirTag to someone else, remember to formally transfer device ownership.
By using AirTags and other trackers ethically and transparently, we can enjoy the benefits of this technology while also preventing unwanted surveillance.
Apple and Google Join Forces Against AirTag Stalking
In response to the growing misuse of tracking devices, Apple and Google have announced a joint effort to combat AirTag stalking:
- The companies are developing an Android/iOS compatibility standard that alerts users of any unknown tracker traveling with them, not just AirTags.
- This collaboration aims to build robust protections directly into future Android and iOS software updates.
- Tile, Chipolo and other Bluetooth tracker brands are also participating to address the broader issue.
- The new capabilities will detect and notify users about potential unwanted tracking by unknown third-party devices.
- Users will then be able to take action to locate and disable any unrecognized trackers, regardless of tech brand or platform.
This is an important step that acknowledges Bluetooth trackers require cross-platform solutions. With Apple and Google working together, enhanced anti-stalking measures will have much wider reach.
Expert Tips To Prevent Tracking and Stay Safe
- “Trust your instincts” – if you suspect you are being tracked, believe yourself and take proactive steps to identify and disable any devices. Don’t downplay violations of your privacy or safety.
- Conduct frequent searches – regularly check your belongings inside and out, your vehicle, pockets and bags for any unknown devices. Don’t just do one sweep.
- Know the technology – learn how AirTags work, how to identify them, disable them, and how to leverage built-in anti-tracking features on your smartphone.
- Raise your awareness – tell family, friends and coworkers about the potential for covert monitoring with trackers. Report any suspicious behaviors.
- Limit location sharing – be selective about granting location access to apps. Disable location services when not actively in use.
- Secure your devices – use strong passcodes and two-factor authentication on your online accounts. Install security updates.
- Seek support if needed – you don’t have to cope with tech-enabled abuse alone. Connect with professionals and organizations that can help.
The Key Role of Companies in Deterring Stalking
To curb the misuse of AirTags for stalking, Apple, Google and other tech companies have a responsibility to:
- Prioritize user privacy and safety during product design phases – not just after public backlash.
- Refrain from promoting trackers as “stalker proof” or absolutely secure when risks are known.
- Invest significantly more into abuse prevention features before devices reach the market.
- Inform law enforcement agencies about monitoring risks and train officers on cyber stalking issues.
- Educate the public on responsible tracking practices and how to report misuse.
- Collaborate across brands for integrated, cross-platform solutions that protect all users.
- Continue expanding capabilities for users to detect unknown devices and deter unwanted surveillance.
Frequently Asked Questions About AirTags and Stalking
Can AirTags be used to track people? How?
Yes. AirTags are intended for tracking personal items but their small size means they can be secretly slipped into someone’s bag, vehicle, or coat pocket to monitor their real-time location without consent.
Do I need an iPhone for an AirTag to track me?
No. AirTags leverage proximity to Apple devices to update their location, but don’t require you to own an iPhone or Apple product to be tracked by one. AirTags transmit universally as Bluetooth devices.
What’s the range of an AirTag for tracking purposes?
AirTags have a Bluetooth range of about 100-160 feet. However, their Find My network connectivity allows them to update locations over much greater distances by harnessing millions of Apple devices.
Can Android users detect if an AirTag is tracking them?
Apple has released an Android app called Tracker Detect that allows manually scanning for AirTags – but it must be opened and actively used to work. Apple and Google are developing tracking detection that works automatically in the OS background for Android and iOS.
If I’m being tracked by an AirTag, can I disable it?
Yes. Removing the AirTag battery will make it stop transmitting your location. You can also leverage iPhone notifications to help precisely locate the rogue AirTag and then disable it.
Is it illegal to use AirTags to track someone without their consent?
In many U.S. states, yes. Using AirTags or other devices to monitor someone’s location without permission may constitute stalking and harassment. New laws prohibiting unauthorized electronic tracking have passed in recent years.
AirTags and other Bluetooth trackers offer convenience for locating lost items, but also serious risks around personal safety if misused for stalking or covert surveillance. It is critical that companies prioritize protecting user privacy in their products, and that individuals stay informed about how tracking technology works. With proper safeguards and education, these devices can be used responsibly.