The Pros of AirTags
Apple AirTags launched in April 2021—since then, consumers have found tremendous utility with the little puck-like devices. AirTags are often attached to other objects or slipped into important belongings.
AirTags are deceivingly simple. They consist of a steel face and a metal backing that can be engraved when ordered from the Apple store. They can generate sounds and tones when needed to help you locate your devices. For up-to-date iOS devices, they can give precise information about their location. Even better, a single AirTag is only $29.
It is important to note, as well, that AirTags pose a possible security and privacy risk to all iOS users. These risks come in similar tracker accessories. Taking proactive steps to protect your data and being aware of those around you helps mitigate these risks.
How Does the AirTag Work?
AirTags do not work like other GPS trackers. Many trackers, like cellphones and in-vehicle map systems, rely on a GPS chip. AirTags, on the other hand, use a combination of U1 chips and Ultra Wideband technology to “piggyback” on the Apple network of devices.
Said another way, Apple products all exist (by default) on the Apple network. This network allows for sharing information from one device to another in a method called peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing. The layperson can think of the Apple network as a large net that encompasses the entire world.
When an AirTag is added to this network and triggered, every iOS device in the area pings the tag for an exact location. People with an Apple device that runs iOS 14.5+ have even more utility. Aspects like Precision Finding can direct a person to their lost AirTag, using a combination of device features.
Do AirTags keep My Information Private?
In short, yes, the AirTags keep all private information private. AirTags cannot store location data, history, or communication history. They cannot even collect or store cellular connectivity—since they use the Bluetooth feature on all modern iOS devices.
Additionally, Apple has increased the security features of the AirTags themselves and the Find My app since launch, including:
- Improved warning sounds and tones
- Optional tracker detection apps for non-iOS devices
- An alert during setup that allows the contact information of an AirTag to be used by law enforcement
- The Find My app has been end-to-end encrypted, allowing for anonymity during pings
How do I Remove an AirTag from My Apple ID?
AirTags can only be connected to one iOS device at a time, while iOS devices can connect up to 16 AirTags. Adding more AirTags is as easy as taking them out of the package and pulling their tab. Compatible devices automatically connect using the host device’s Apple ID.
However, removing an AirTag from an Apple ID is a little more challenging. Only a specific Apple ID owner can remove an AirTag from their account. This is good because a lost AirTag cannot then be repurposed by the person who finds it.
- To remove an AirTag from within your Apple ID account:
- Open up the Find My app from your iOS device
- Look for and select the ‘Items’ tab from the menu
- Click on the AirTag that you wish to remove
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page
- Select ‘Remove Item,’ and the AirTag will be free to connect to another device (or not)
Can AirTags be Used to Track Me?
AirTags are specifically meant to track belongings. However, this doesn’t mean malicious actors couldn’t hijack them for their own reasons.
AirTags are small and light, making them ideal for attaching to important stuff. However, being tiny makes it possible for bad actors to slip them into bags and cars without notice. The most malicious situations can come from stalkers, predators, or burglars who want to track where you go.
It is important to note that AirTags is not the only technology that can fall victim to bad actors. Criminals can also maliciously use the Samsung tag, Tile, Jiobits, and other GPS-based trackers.
The media surrounding malicious actors and AirTags is explicitly due to the AirTag’s wide-ranging abilities. GPS-based trackers do not utilize a world-encompassing system, so the AirTag is chosen over others because of its superior tracking abilities.
Item Trackers are Useful, but Tracking Can Be Abused
All tracker technology can be helpful; criminals can also abuse it. AirTags provide iOS devices with additional features that aspire to make life a little easier. However, malicious people can easily exploit these tracking systems and create victims. Identity monitoring is essential if you worry someone may have your personal data from a tag like these. That way, you get notifications if someone tries to use your personal data.
Knowing how to turn off location data is one of the most powerful tools a person can use to protect themselves. Identity theft protection is something we all need to invest in so we can enjoy the benefits of this technology. To turn off the location data on your iOS device, go into Settings > Apple ID > Find My > Find My iPhone, then slide the toggle for ‘Find My network’ off. It’s just that simple.