Apple outlines Find My & AirTag changes to help prevent stalking

AirTag Setup
AirTag Setup (Image credit: Joe Keller / iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple has outlined changes to its Find My network in the face of ongoing privacy concerns.
  • Changes are being made to AirTag to help people find them more easily when potentially being stalked.
  • Apple has already provided Apple ID information to law enforcement to identify possible stalkers.

Apple has today shared details about changes it is making to the Find My network as well as its AirTag trackers in an attempt to help allay privacy and safety fears.

Following a number of reports pointing to AirTag item trackers being used to stalk people, Apple says that it has been working with law enforcement to identify areas that it can improve. The company also says that it has already helped identify people that have been misusing AirTags with each tracker being attached to an Apple ID.

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.

In terms of changes moving forward, Apple says (opens in new tab) that it will be making a number of changes including new privacy warnings during AirTag setup.

However, should an AirTag be misused Apple says that it will enable a feature to allow modern iPhones to use precision finding to locate it. Some people have reported receiving a warning that an AirTag is with them but then being unable to locate it.

Precision Finding: This capability allows recipients of an unwanted tracking alert to locate an unknown AirTag with precision. iPhone 11, iPhone 12, and iPhone 13 users will be able to use Precision Finding to see the distance and direction to an unknown AirTag when it is in range. As an iPhone user moves, Precision Finding fuses input from the camera, ARKit, accelerometer, and gyroscope to guide them to the AirTag through a combination of sound, haptics, and visual feedback.

Apple says it will also display an alert when an AirTag automatically emits a sound, while the sound itself will also be tweaked for easier hearing. The alert is designed to help people be aware of a rogue AirTag even if its speaker has been disabled.

Display alert with sound: When AirTag automatically emits a sound to alert anyone nearby of its presence and is detected moving with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, we will also display an alert on your device that you can then take action on, like playing a sound or using Precision Finding, if available. This will help in cases where the AirTag may be in a location where it is hard to hear, or if the AirTag speaker has been tampered with.

Apple says these changes will be implemented via a future software update but did not say when that would be.

Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.