airtag tracking

AirTags Here’s How You Can Detect Them

Apple’s AirTags and Samsung’s SmartTags joined an already crowded Bluetooth tracker market back in 2021. These little devices attach to key rings, backpacks, and luggage or can be tucked inside a bag or attached to any other possession you’re afraid to lose, sending you alerts when it leaves your side and even enabling you to track down its last known location on a map. Useful, right? But there are also very valid concerns about how these gadgets can be used to track people. The most common trackers made by Apple, Tile, etc. don’t have built-in GPS, so they can’t send out a constant beacon with their location, but they can be reported as lost, at which point other phones are enlisted anonymously to find them. When you read about trackers like AirTags being misused to track people without their knowledge, this is how it’s done: It doesn’t take long for a tracker to leave the Bluetooth range of the phone it’s connected to, but that individual can then mark the tracker as lost and get a report on its location courtesy of other users. This is handy if you’ve forgotten your phone in a bar, not so helpful if someone has slipped a tracker on your person or into your belongings without you realising. In the case of Apple, which has close to a billion devices activated on its Find My network, that behind-the-scenes pinging means you’ll probably get a rather precise pinpoint of the tracker’s location. Networks run by Apple’s competitors are much smaller, relying on users to have a companion app installed, but unwanted tracking could still be an issue. The companies that make these trackers are very much aware of the potential problems. They’re pushing out more tools and safeguards to make it a lot harder to follow someone (or someone’s car, or someone’s bag) in this way. We’ll start with the latest on Apple AirTags, before covering some other types of trackers you might have.

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