Apple Executive Says AirTags Designed to Track Items, Not Children or Pets
Following the announcement of AirTags this week, Apple's VP of worldwide iPhone product marketing, Kaiann Drance, and Apple's senior director of sensing and connectivity, Ron Huang, spoke with Fast Company about the Tile-like tracker and its design and privacy.
Speaking about the design of AirTag, Drance says Apple wanted to create a simple yet unique design for the tracker, keeping in mind it wanted to create something that "no one else in the industry’s ever done before." One of the biggest selling points for AirTag is its user privacy. Apple is stressing that AirTag uses encrypted networks, and Apple or other third parties can't read their location.
Huang says that even if someone happens to find your lost AirTag, they will not be able to pair it with their iPhone and continue to use it. Both executives stressed during the interview that AirTag uses Apple's Find My network, which hosts almost a billion Apple devices, keeping the whole experience secure and private.
This entire process is end-to-end encrypted so that no one but the owner of the AirTag—not the owners of the crowdsourced devices picking up the AirTag’s location or even Apple itself—ever has access to the AirTag’s current or past location. And the Bluetooth identifiers that AirTags emit are not only randomized but “are rotated many times a day and never reused so that as you travel from place to place with the AirTag, you cannot be re-identified,” Huang says.
Drance and Huang are also keen to note that though almost a billion Apple devices act as a crowdsourced monitoring network that helps keep track of AirTags, the AirTag owner can never see which devices its AirTag’s location is pinging off of or who owns those devices.
Earlier in March, Apple introduced a new safety feature in its Find My app within the iOS 14.5 beta that will notify users if the iPhone detects an unknown tracking device, such as AirTag, being used to track them. The purpose of the feature is to prevent incidents in which someone may slip an AirTag into a user's backpack and use it to stalk them.
In the case that it does happen, users will receive a notification stating "AirTag Found Moving With You," and will then have the ability to disable it physically. Speaking about the safety feature, Drance says that users should contact local law enforcement if they feel their safety is at risk.
“If you are concerned that there’s a risk of your being tracked you could contact law enforcement,” Drance notes. “What the [AirTag’s] serial number is used for is when you first set up your AirTag it is paired with an Apple ID along with some additional information such as your name, your email address, your date of birth, and things like that, which [Apple] could provide to law enforcement if asked for, with the proper warrants and process.”
Apple is marketing AirTag as a smart and capable way to track items. Questions have arisen, however, if AirTag can be used to track children and pets. When asked, Apple's VP of iPhone product marketing says the company designed AirTag to track items, not children. The executive suggests parents use an Apple Watch with Family Setup to locate their children. In the case of tracking pets, Drance says they need to be in range.
When I asked Drance about parents using AirTags to track their small children (such as during an outing at an amusement park) or pets (we know you’re up to something shady, Fluffy) she was quick to stress that the company designed the AirTag to track items, not people or pets. If parents would like to safely track their young children, she suggests an Apple Watch with Family Setup might be a better choice.
As for strapping an AirTag to a pet, Drance says, “If people do that, they just have to make sure that their moving pet gets into range of a device in the Find My network” so its location can be tracked.
Both executives also spoke about AirTags to YouTuber Rene Ritchie. AirTag will be available to pre-order on Friday, April 23 for $29, or in a pack of four for $99. They'll begin shipping on April 30. Check out some first impressions and hands-on reviews of AirTags.