Ashley Estrada was visiting a friend’s house in Los Angeles on a Sunday night in September when her iPhone rang with an unusual notification: “AirTag Detected Near You.” She immediately went to investigate.
Ms. Estrada is not alone in her feelings about the situation. AirTags have been discovered on automobiles and in personal goods by individuals who have written on TikTok, Reddit, and Twitter about their discoveries in recent months. A increasing number of privacy advocates are concerned that the gadgets might be used to facilitate a new type of stalking, something that privacy advocates anticipated would happen when Apple debuted the devices in April.
Several women, including a 17-year-old whose mother secretly installed an AirTag on her vehicle in order to keep track of her travels, talked with the New York Times about their experiences with AirTags and whether they feel they were monitored.
In Canada, a local police agency said that it had investigated five cases of criminals installing AirTags on “high-end automobiles” in order to subsequently locate and steal the vehicles.
Police might request that Apple reveal information on the owner of the AirTag, which could lead to the identification of the perpetrator. People who talked with The Times, on the other hand, said that they were unable to locate the connected AirTags that they had been warned of, and that the police did not always take their reports of the alerts on their phones seriously.
Erika Torres, a graduate music student in New Orleans, was informed by her iPhone this month after a Friday night out with her boyfriend. Over the course of two hours, a “unknown item” had been identified near her, following her from a club to her house.
She alerted the authorities and contacted Apple, but she was unable to locate an AirTag. An Apple worker informed her that other gadgets, including AirPods, might cause the warning to go off. When Ms. Torres uploaded a video of her encounter on YouTube, more than a dozen individuals remarked that they had had a similar experience as well.
According to Ms. Estrada, “Apple certainly created this product with the desire to do good, but this demonstrates that technology can be exploited for both good and harmful reasons.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles police department said that the agency had not heard of any instances in which an AirTag had been used to track a person or a car. Ms. Estrada, on the other hand, claims that after she released her TikTok video, an Apple employee contacted her on their own initiative. When the staffer looked up the AirTag’s address, she discovered that it belonged to a lady who lived in Central Los Angeles.
Following her workout in November, another lady received a notification on her iPhone stating that she was being followed by a “unknown item.” When she returned home, she immediately contacted the authorities.
It was explained to the lady, Michaela Clough of Corning, California, that a complaint could only be made if someone showed up at her door and that Apple’s alerts were not sufficient evidence that she was being followed. She eventually got in contact with an Apple customer care agent, who was able to unplug the gadget from Ms. Clough’s iPhone with the help of the representative. The gadget went missing and was never discovered.
A person who does not have access to an iPhone may have a more difficult time identifying an undesired AirTag. With Android cellphones, AirTags are not compatible. Apple introduced an Android app earlier this month that can scan for AirTags — but you have to be alert enough to download it and use it on a regular basis to benefit from it.
People who claim they have been monitored have criticised Apple’s security measures as inadequate. According to Ms. Estrada, she received the notification four hours after her phone initially detected the rogue device. Several others said that they were not made aware of an unknown AirTag for several days. As explained by Apple, the timing of the warnings might vary based on the operating system and location settings of the iPhone in question.
The irregularities of the devices have generated confusion among those who were not necessarily being followed for criminal purposes. A signal that she was being monitored by an unknown AirTag was received by Mary Ford, a 17-year-old high school student from Cary, North Carolina, in late October after travelling to an appointment. She was in a state of panic as she checked her vehicle.