Apple will update its AirTag tracking devices to allay privacy concerns

Apple has announced plans to update its AirTag tracking devices after a number of incidents where they were being used for unwanted tracking.

AirTags, which were first introduced in April last year, are small devices designed to be attached to bags, keys or anything users want to keep track of.

Their whereabouts can then be tracked using Apple’s ‘Find My’ network, which uses Bluetooth if nearby or an encrypted network made up of nearly a billion Apple devices if not.

Since their release, some people have reported being tracked using AirTags without their consent, raising privacy concerns.

Addressing the concerns, Apple said: “We have been actively working with law enforcement on all AirTag-related requests we’ve received. Based on our knowledge and on discussions with law enforcement, incidents of AirTag misuse are rare; however, each instance is one too many.”

It condemned “malicious” use of the product and revealed plans to update the devices to make it more difficult to use them to track people without their knowledge.

Apple said it was looking into a new precision-finding feature that would enable people to locate unknown AirTags with precision and tune the sound of the unwanted tracking alert tone to make the device more easily findable.

The next software update will also see every user setting up their AirTag given more clear privacy warnings that they are only meant to track their belongings and that using them to track people without consent is a crime in many regions around the world.

With regards to their collaboration with law enforcement, Apple said: “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.”

AirTags are one of the first mass-market consumer devices to make use of a wireless technology known as ultra-wideband, which does not separate out data using different frequencies, like other wireless systems, but separates out data using time, splitting signals into pulses that are mere nanoseconds long.

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