AirTag Anti-Stalking Measures 'Just Aren't Sufficient' Says Washington Post Report

The safeguards that Apple built into AirTags to prevent them from being used to track someone "just aren't sufficient," The Washington Post's Geoffrey Fowler said today in a report investigating how ‌AirTags‌ can be used for covert stalking.

airtag 1
Fowler planted an AirTag on himself and teamed up with a colleague to be pretend stalked, and he came to the conclusion that the ‌AirTags‌ are a "new means of inexpensive, effective stalking."

Apple's safeguards include privacy alerts to let iPhone users know that an unknown AirTag is traveling with them and may be in their belongings, along with regular sound alerts when an AirTag has been separated from its owner for three days.

Fowler said that over a week of tracking, he received alerts both from the hidden AirTag and from his ‌iPhone‌. After three days, the AirTag being used to stalk Fowler played a sound, but it was "just 15 seconds of light chirping" that measured in at about 60 decibels. It played for 15 seconds at a time, went silent for several hours, then chirped for another 15 seconds, and it was easy to muffle by applying pressure to the top of the AirTag.

The three-day countdown timer resets after it comes in contact with the owner's ‌iPhone‌, so if the person being stalked lives with their stalker, the sound might not ever activate.

airtag privacy alert
Fowler also received regular alerts about an unknown AirTag moving with him from his ‌iPhone‌, but pointed out those alerts aren't available to Android users. He also said that Apple does not provide enough help locating a nearby AirTag since it can only be tracked by sound, a feature that didn't often work.

I got multiple alerts: from the hidden AirTag and on my iPhone. But it wasn't hard to find ways an abusive partner could circumvent Apple's systems. To name one: The audible alarm only rang after three days -- and then it turned out to be just 15 seconds of light chirping. And another: While an iPhone alerted me that an unknown AirTag was moving with me, similar warnings aren't available for the roughly half of Americans who use Android phones.

The planted AirTag on Fowler kept his colleague well-updated with his location information, updating once every few minutes with a range of around half a block. While Fowler was at home, the AirTag reported his exact location, all using his own devices thanks to Apple's Find My network.

The ‌Find My‌ network is designed to make it easier to find a lost Apple device or item attached to an AirTag by utilizing hundreds of millions of active Apple products around the world. If you lose an AirTag and someone else's device picks it up, the lost AirTag's location is relayed back to you, and this also applies to ‌AirTags‌ tracking people.

Apple's vice president of ‌iPhone‌ marketing Kaiann Drance told The Washington Post that the safeguards built into the ‌AirTags‌ are an "industry-first, strong set of proactive deterrents." She went on to explain that ‌AirTags‌ anti-tracking measures can be bolstered over time. "It's a smart and tunable system, and we can continue improving the logic and timing so that we can improve the set of deterrents."

She also commented on some of the safeguards. Apple chose a three day timeline before an AirTag starts playing a sound because the company "wanted to balance how these alerts are going off in the environment as well as the unwanted tracking." Drance declined to say whether Apple had consulted domestic abuse experts when creating the ‌AirTags‌, but she said that Apple is "open to hearing anything from those organizations."

Fowler admits that Apple has done more to prevent ‌AirTags‌ from being used for stalking than other Bluetooth tracking device competitors like Tile, but there are still concerns that need to be addressed. Fowler's full report that goes into more detail on how he mimicked being stalked and the shortcomings that he found in the ‌AirTags‌ can be found over at The Washington Post.

Related Forum: AirTags

Top Rated Comments

cmaier Avatar
18 months ago
It’s easy to muffle while pressing the top! (Um, who is pressing the top to muffle the sound while this attempted stalking is happening. I am very confused)
Score: 72 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheLinkster Avatar
18 months ago
Sounds like Bezos is prepping his own product.
Score: 70 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Analog Kid Avatar
18 months ago
This is one of those things where after hearing forever that Apple isn't the first to make a device, they're now the ones being pilloried for it simply because they tried a little harder to help and fell short of perfect, right?
Score: 70 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PatrickCocoa Avatar
18 months ago
The Washington Post doesn't like AirTags? Great, now I have to buy AirTags.
Score: 67 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Martinpa Avatar
18 months ago
I'm going on a hunt for a similar article from around the time the first generation Tile came out... don't wait for me...
Score: 67 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jonproject Avatar
18 months ago
Remember all the great anti-tracking features Tile had? No? Oh...
Score: 58 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

AirTags from 2019 spotlit

Packaging Reveals Apple Was Preparing to Ship AirTags as Early as 2019

Friday April 30, 2021 7:45 am PDT by
AirTags, until their official announcement earlier this month, had remained one of the most rumored Apple products of the last few years. Initial reports about an Apple item tracker began to surface in 2019, and in the entirety of the two years that followed, AirTags' release seemed to be constantly imminent. Last week, FCC filings revealed that Apple began seeking regulatory approval and...
Screen Shot

AirTags Separated From Owners for Three Days or More Play Audible Sound When Moved

Wednesday April 21, 2021 1:53 am PDT by
Apple's AirTag item trackers let you track things like your keys, wallet, purse, backpack, or luggage, and if an AirTag is separated from its owner and out of Bluetooth range, the Find My network can help track it down, thanks to its U1 Wideband chip. According to Apple, an AirTag that isn't with the person who registered it for an extended period of time will also play a sound when moved,...
apple id warning

iOS 15.4 Beta 4 Includes AirTags Anti-Stalking Changes

Tuesday February 22, 2022 11:36 am PST by
The newly released fourth beta of iOS 15.4 introduces the anti-stalking AirTag changes that Apple announced earlier this month, providing a setup warning that using an AirTag or another Find My-linked item to track someone without consent is a crime. "You can locate this item using the Find My network," reads the setup screen. "Using this item to track people without their consent is a crime ...
airtag in hand

AirTags Arriving Early to Some Customers

Wednesday April 28, 2021 4:58 pm PDT by
AirTags aren't set to officially launch until Friday, April 30, but some customers have mistakenly received their AirTags shipments already, with many of the early AirTags coming from Best Buy. MacRumors reader Johnny sent us a series of photos of his AirTags that he already has in hand, giving us a look at the packaging and a real-life look at the AirTags themselves outside of reviews. ...
AirTag is Linked to Apple ID Feature

Apple Announces AirTag Updates to Address Unwanted Tracking

Thursday February 10, 2022 9:58 am PST by
Apple today announced that it is making some updates to AirTags with the aim of cutting down on unwanted tracking. There are several changes that will be implemented in a multi-phase rollout. In an upcoming software update, Apple plans to implement new privacy warnings that will show up during AirTag setup to thwart malicious use. The warning will make it clear that the AirTag is linked to...
f1618938547

Android Users Largely Excluded From AirTag Unwanted Tracking Improvements

Wednesday February 16, 2022 2:33 am PST by
Apple's recently announced unwanted tracking improvements for AirTags, which seek to cut down on individuals being unknowingly tracked with the device by another person, may not be a significant help to Android users. Unwanted tracking "has long been a societal problem," according to Apple, which is why ‌AirTags‌ were initially built with privacy in mind with the "first-ever proactive...
airtag in hand

Apple Enhancing AirTags Anti-Stalking Measures With Android App and Shorter Sound Intervals

Thursday June 3, 2021 11:10 am PDT by
Apple is enhancing AirTags security to prevent stalking using the Bluetooth devices, Apple told CNET today. Apple is already sending out over-the-air updates to AirTags that will shorten the amount of time before an unknown AirTag alerts you if it is in your possession. At the current time, AirTags play a sound after three days of being away from their owner. After the update, AirTags will...
AirTag in Envelope Feature 2

AirTag Used to Successfully Track a Mailed Package Across the UK

Wednesday May 12, 2021 8:44 am PDT by
An Apple customer in the United Kingdom has successfully used Apple's Find My network to track an AirTag as it was being sent by mail to a friend in a completely different city. Outlined in a blog post at Intego, Kirk McElhearn said he taped an AirTag to a piece of card, wrapped it inside a small bubble envelope, and then sent it on its way. Kirk lives in the small town of...

Popular Stories

iOS 16

Apple Releases iOS 16.0.2 With Bug Fixes for iPhone 14 Pro Camera Vibration, Copy/Paste Issue and More

Thursday September 22, 2022 1:04 pm PDT by
Apple today released iOS 16.0.2, addressing a number of bugs that iPhone 14 owners have been experiencing since the new devices launched. iOS 16.0.2 comes two weeks after the launch of iOS 16, and it follows iOS 16.0.1, an update made available to iPhone 14 owners on launch day. The update is available for all iPhones that are capable of running iOS 16. The iOS 16.0.2 update can be...
apple watch series 7 aluminum colors yellowbg

Don't Want the Apple Watch Ultra or Series 8? Amazon Has Record Low Prices on Series 7 Models This Week

Friday September 23, 2022 6:56 am PDT by
The Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra are now available to purchase, but if you aren't interested in these updates you can save a lot of money on Series 7 models right now on Amazon. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. The best deals are on cellular...
Dynamic Island For Android Users Feature

Android App Copying iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island Released on Play Store

Thursday September 22, 2022 7:57 am PDT by
A copycat version of the iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island has arrived on Android's Google Play Store in the form of an app called "dynamicSpot." The app, still in beta, offers customers several different experiences at the top of their smartphones. In its current form, dynamicSpot offers playback control for songs, timers, battery status, and more features coming soon, according to the app's...
maxresdefault

Video Review: Four Days With the iPhone 14 Pro Max

Wednesday September 21, 2022 7:49 am PDT by
Apple on Friday released the new iPhone 14 models, and MacRumors videographer Dan picked one up on launch day. He's been using the iPhone 14 Pro Max non-stop since it came out, and over on the MacRumors YouTube channel, has shared his initial thoughts on the day-to-day experience with the latest iPhone. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Dan's mini review highlights...
14 vs 16 inch mbp m2 pro and max feature 1

New 14-Inch and 16-Inch MacBook Pros Reportedly Launching Later This Year

Friday September 23, 2022 7:08 am PDT by
Apple plans to release new MacBook Pro models in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to supply chain publication DigiTimes. The report does not mention specific models, but it very likely refers to the next-generation 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros given that the 13-inch model was already updated earlier this year. There has been uncertainty surrounding the timing of new 14-inch and...
facebook meta

Meta Sued Over Tracking iPhone Users Despite Apple's Privacy Features

Thursday September 22, 2022 5:12 am PDT by
Meta is facing a new proposed class action lawsuit that accuses it of tracking and collecting the personal data of iPhone users, despite features and policies made by Apple which are meant to stop that same type of tracking. In August, it was revealed that with the Facebook and Instagram apps, Meta can track all of a user's key taps, keyboard inputs, and more, when using the in-app browser....
AirPods Max 2022 Colors

Ten Things AirPods Pro 2 Tell Us About AirPods Max 2

Saturday September 24, 2022 1:00 am PDT by
Upon the release of the second-generation AirPods Pro, the AirPods Max became the oldest current-generation AirPods product still in Apple's lineup. Introducing several new features like Adaptive Transparency and the H2 chip, the second-generation AirPods Pro may provide some of the best indications yet of what to expect from the second-generation AirPods Max. Almost two years later, rumors...
new airpods pro ear tips

Apple Explains Why Second-Generation AirPods Pro Ear Tips Are Incompatible With Original AirPods Pro

Thursday September 22, 2022 3:12 pm PDT by
Apple today explained why the new silicone ear tips for the second-generation AirPods Pro are not officially compatible with the original AirPods Pro. In an updated support document, Apple said the original AirPods Pro ear tips have "noticeably denser mesh" than the second-generation ear tips. Apple did not provide any additional details, but the mesh density could result in acoustical...
AirPods Pro Second Generation 2 Pairing Feature 1

AirPods Pro 2 Engravings Appear in iOS During Pairing and Connecting

Friday September 23, 2022 9:40 am PDT by
Customers who personalize their second-generation AirPods Pro charging case with an engraving will now have that engraving reflected directly on iOS as they pair and connect their AirPods Pro. Apple allows customers to personalize their AirPods Pro charging case with a special engraving that can include select emojis and Memojis. Unlike before, starting with the second-generation AirPods...