AirTags Part 2: How Can You Protect Yourself or Child from being Tracked
In Part 1, we discussed the use of AirTags to track your spouse and children and the implications in divorce and custody cases. Now you might be wondering, what can I do to protect myself or my child from being tracked?
Manufacturers have taken steps to improve Security.
The success of these trackers is based off their proximity to other devices they can ping off, and they can only ping off devices with Bluetooth turned on. Location data and the identity of the pinged devices are not stored in the trackers.
Apple has implemented what they call “Precision Finding” to safeguard against unwanted tracking. If someone drops an AirTag in your bag, you will receive a notification that there is “an AirTag found moving with you.” After a period of time away from the AirTag’s linked device, it will start to emit a chirp on its own. However, this only works on the iPhone 14.5 and higher versions. In January 2022, a super model reported receiving a notification on her iPhone that an unknown device had been following her. Disappointingly, it takes some time for the AirTag to send the alert and certain features on your iPhone have to be enabled. (Apple Support) Unbeknownst to the model, the AirTag had been “following” her for five hours in her coat pocket before she received the notification on her iPhone.
Unfortunately, the AirTag will not send a notification to any Android phones.
Tile has taken a different approach and will roll out their “Anti-Theft Mode” in the upcoming weeks which, when activated, will prevent anyone from seeing the Tile’s location other than the owner. The idea is to recover stolen items without the thieves knowing they are being tracked. To use the Anti-Theft mode, the owner will have to “register a government-issued ID to their account and submit a biometric scan to confirm their identity” and agree to new terms of service, which includes a $1 million fine if the owner is found misusing the device for nefarious reasons. Tile’s belief is “that increasing penalties and removing anonymity is a key driver of deterring stalking.”
Even with manufacturers taking steps to limit unauthorized tracking, there are still risks.
How can I protect myself and my children from being tracked?
Listen to your gut and trust your instincts.
If your partner or ex-partner always seems to know where you are going or what you are doing, they might be tracking you. Recently, a man was arrested for hiding an AirTag in his child’s mother’s car. She found the tracker after he texted photos of her vehicle in various locations. She contacted the police and had him arrested from illegally installing a tracking device. Man plants AirTag in car belonging to mother of his child, deputies say.
If you suspect you or your child is being tracked or have found trackers “following” you, here are steps you can take:
- Turn off your location setting on your devices so apps aren’t able to sync with your location.
- Check the settings on any location apps on your and your child’s devices such as Life360, Find My App, and Google Maps and don’t share your location with anyone you don’t recognize or trust.
- Check your camera app setting on your devices. Make sure that the location metadata is not being stored on your photos before you share them with anyone or post them online.
- To prevent trackers from pinging off of your device, turn Bluetooth off when you are not using it.
- Periodically, search your keys, purses, coats, bags, and vehicle for unfamiliar devices or objects. To check for trackers, both Apple and Android users can download the “Tracker Detect” app onto their smart devices and run a scan. For a tracker to be found, a scan has to be manually initiated. The app doesn’t run in the background to detect trackers automatically.
- If you receive a notification that a tracker has been detected, take it seriously. Tapping one of those notifications will cause the AirTag to chirp to help you find it.
- Disable the trackers by removing the battery. For an AirTag, the notification will also give you steps to disable it by removing the battery. How to remove and replace the battery in your AirTag — Apple Support
- Contact your local police department. File a report, especially if you feel you are in danger or if you are protected by a domestic violence protective order or any other protective order.
- The police can contact Apple and Tile to try to locate the owner’s information.
- For more Help resources, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 if you suspect someone you have a relationship with is stalking you.
If you find yourself in a domestic situation where you believe your spouse is tracking you, it is important that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible.
For more information about the legal implications of using AirTags and other electronic tracking devices, consult our previous blog post here.