Apple AirTags are marketed as a way to keep track of important items like one’s wallet or keys, but law enforcement is warning that the product is also being used by criminals for theft or stalking after numerous cases reported nationwide this year.
Canadian law enforcement announced back in December that AirTags were being used by criminals to track luxury vehicles that were later stolen. Social media has also been inundated with stories of people who have found AirTags hidden in their belongings or stuck to their cars as a way to track them.
According to KTVK 5, the Phoenix Police Department has encountered nine cases involving AirTags since the tracking devices were launched in April last year.
“Based on our knowledge and on discussions with law enforcement, incidents of AirTag misuse are rare; however, each instance is one too many,” a statement from Apple read.
Apple recently updated its security measures and rolled out a software update aimed at preventing unwanted tracking, but some law enforcement experts believe the measures will not completely stop this type of high-tech crime from happening.
The update included increasing the frequency of an alarm sound that an AirTag emits after a certain time has elapsed, increasing the volume of the “chirping” sound, as well as providing information on how to disable AirTags or find information on the product’s owner.
iPhone users will also receive a notification that an AirTag is nearby, and Android users can download an app called “Tracking Detect” that provides similar notifications.
Mesa Police Department Detective Karrie Flanigan disagreed with some of the changes Apple made as well as its recommendations for dealing with unwanted tracking.
If tracked, Flanigan recommends calling police and not going home to prevent revealing one’s address to a potential stalker or thief.
The detective was mainly concerned about Apple’s instructions for finding who owns the device and disabling it by removing the battery, as both steps require touching the AirTag, which could damage evidence.
“Now the stalker knows you just disabled it because you took the battery out, and you put your thumbprint on it. Evidence-wise it completely screws the whole case up,” Flanigan explained.
Renee Williams, the executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, said that AirTags — as well as other forms of modern technology — are liable for misuse.
“As technology becomes more sophisticated and advanced, as wonderful as that is for society, unfortunately, it also becomes much easier to misuse and abuse. I wouldn’t say that we’ve necessarily seen an uptick with the use of AirTags any more or less than any cutting-edge technology,” she told NPR.
Jennifer Landhuis, the director of the Stalking Prevention Awareness and Resource Center, advised victims of tracking to contact law enforcement discreetly and publicly.
“If the offender is monitoring the victim’s actions, and sees that the AirTag has now gone to the police station, that can escalate the situation and put a victim more in danger,” she said.