Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has issued a statement warning of the potential for misuse of Apple AirTags, which were developed to help individuals find important personal items like car keys and wallets.
As great as technology can be in helping make people's lives easier or better, there can be serious downsides at times, even more so when technology is used with ill-intent.
Victims of domestic violence and domestic abuse can also find themselves falling victim to Apple AirTags as recently warned by Pennsylvania law enforcement.
Technology, whether in the form of text messages, emails, or social media, has played a role in Protection from Abuse and domestic violence cases in recent years. Apple AirTags can now be added to this list.
The consumer alert, dated February 16, arose from reporting to law enforcement about individuals finding unknown tracking devices in purses, coat pockets, and cars. Others reported receiving notifications on iPhones about being tracked by the devices when they had no idea they were in possession of them.
“It's vital all Pennsylvanians, especially women and survivors of sexual assault and abuse know about how these devices can be misused and turned into a threat,” said Shapiro. “In the wrong hands, these tracking devices could lead to disaster.”
The AG made it clear that anyone who knows or believes they were tracked by an unknown device should immediately report it to law enforcement.
iPhones Versus Androids
People with an iPhone 6 or newer with iOS14.5 software or newer will be notified if an unknown AirTag is nearby; their devices are monitored 24/7. Make sure you update your iPhone regularly.
Android users are at a disadvantage and can be tracked without their knowledge for some time unless they regularly conduct a manual scan.
Avoiding Unwanted Tracking
The AG outlined some steps individuals can take to avoid unwanted tracking.
- Stay attuned to unfamiliar beeping. When an AirTag is separated from a known device for a period of time, it will start to beep. It could be in your glove box, behind your license plate, or a compartment in a purse or backpack. Once you locate the AirTag, you can hold your phone close to it to get information, including the serial number. Once you have that, you can disable the AirTag by disabling the “Find My” app, or you can simply remove the device's battery.
- Keep an eye out for a notification on iPhones that says, “Item Detected Near You,” which will appear if your phone has been close to an unfamiliar AirTag. Tap the message, and it will allow you to play a sound on the AirTag in order to find it. Be sure to write down any information about the device so you can use it when you contact law enforcement.
- For those with Android devices, download Tracker Detect to find any unfamiliar AirTags in Bluetooth range. This is a manual function to be used if you hear unfamiliar beeping or if you suspect you are being tracked.
- Apple has issued guidance on how to deal with unknown AirTags. Check in regularly for updates.
Above All, Be Alert
While not every unknown device is malicious—people do legitimately lose their AirTags—it's important to be aware, especially if you have a current or former partner who may want to track your every move.
Also, know bad actors can track you through other means beyond AirTags, including other GPS devices. Stay safe by being alert to any kind of unwarranted surveillance.
If you or someone you love has immediate concerns about safety from a current or former partner, call law enforcement right away. If you need legal advice on how to avoid and combat stalking or other concerning behavior, and need to pursue a Protection from Abuse order, call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686. We will fight for your safety.