Apple: ‘An Update on AirTag and Unwanted Tracking’

Apple Newsroom has a wide-ranging update on AirTags and malicious tracking:

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. [...]

New privacy warnings during AirTag setup: In an upcoming software update, every user setting up their AirTag for the first time will see a message that clearly states that AirTag is meant to track their own belongings, that using AirTag to track people without consent is a crime in many regions around the world, that AirTag is designed to be detected by victims, and that law enforcement can request identifying information about the owner of the AirTag.

Rene Ritchie has a good video about these upcoming changes. One point he makes that Apple doesn’t address is the desire some people have to use AirTags to track stolen items. The same features that help prevent AirTags from being used to stalk people without their knowing could also alert a thief that whatever it is they’ve stolen has an AirTag attached. There’s no way for AirTags to serve both purposes, so Apple is increasing the protections against unwanted tracking, and emphasizing that AirTags are solely intended for finding your own lost items.

Addressing alert issues for AirPods: We’ve heard from users who have reported receiving an “Unknown Accessory Detected” alert. We’ve confirmed this alert will not display if an AirTag is detected near you — only AirPods (3rd generation), AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or a third-party Find My network accessory. In the same software update, we will be updating the alert users receive to indicate that AirPods have been traveling with them instead of an “Unknown Accessory.”

Mystery solved, I hope. I know these “Unknown Accessory Detected” alerts have been bedeviling some people.

Thursday, 10 February 2022