Have you ever wondered whether someone could track your every move with an Apple AirTag? These small, powerful tags have been dubbed the “world’s best tracker” by some. They’re being touted as an easy way to track almost anything — a purse, backpack, wallet, or pet.
But can they be used to keep tabs on people too? It’s important to understand precisely how these devices work and what makes them so appealing before deciding if this is something you should use.
We’ll take an in-depth look at Apple AirTags and their tracking capabilities so that you can make an informed decision about using these devices and how they might affect your safety.
What Is an Apple AirTag?
Apple AirTags are digital chips that you can place on almost anything to help you keep track of your belongings. They use Bluetooth and Ultra Wideband technology to connect with your iPhone.
Additionally, their powerful tracking processor can update its location when it’s within range. When it’s out of range, the built-in “Find My” app kicks in and guides you to the tag’s location by displaying a current or past position.
The tags come with a replaceable CR2032 battery which can last one year; they also have built-in temperature and environmental sensors to help protect items from damage due to exposure.
How Does an Apple AirTag Work?
An Apple AirTag sends out a Bluetooth signal that can connect anonymously to other nearby devices in Apple’s Find My network. These nearby devices use the Bluetooth signal to triangulate the AirTag’s location, which gets sent to iCloud.
You can then go to the Find My app and locate the AirTag on a map. This process is anonymous and encrypted to help protect the user’s privacy.
After you find the location on the map, you can physically try to locate the AirTag. If you know it’s nearby, you can use the Find My app to make it beep. Then follow the beep sound until you locate the object attached to it.
The Precision Finding feature requires an iPhone 11 or newer because it requires the U1 ultra wideband chip.
With Precision Finding, your iPhone displays an arrow that points to where the AirTag is located while also telling you the distance.
Yes, AirTags work without Wi-Fi. They use Bluetooth technology to emit a signal picked up anonymously by other devices and sent to iCloud, so you can use the Find My app to locate the AirTag.
While AirTags don’t require Wi-Fi, having an internet connection on your phone will make it easier to use the Find My app and locate it.
Can Someone Track You With an Apple AirTag?
Apple developed AirTag to help people easily locate misplaced items. Do you have a knack for losing your keys? You may occasionally set down your backpack, computer, or camera bag and walk off. Have you ever set your smartphone down and forgotten about it?
Just as easily as you can attach an AirTag to one of these items and use the Find My app to locate it, someone else could as well. Someone could slip an AirTag into your purse or backpack without your knowledge.
When you walk away with that item, some nefarious person using the Find My app could then track you with it.
Though this is entirely possible, Apple insists it has taken steps to build in certain protections to discourage unwanted tracking. Apple has created a feature to notify people of a potential threat.
Notably, Apple iPhones operating iOS 14.5 or newer with the correct settings turned on can get notified if an AirTag is separated from its owner and moving with them.
Android users have a similar option but don’t automatically receive notifications. They can use an Apple-built app called Tracker Detect to scan for any nearby unknown AirTags. However, this only works when the app is open.
An iPhone with the appropriate settings works automatically without opening an app.
If you get alerted to a nearby, unknown AirTag, you can trigger an audible chime to help locate it. After locating the AirTag, you can disable it by removing the battery.
NPR notes, however, that law enforcement professionals say disabling it could taint the AirTag as potential evidence.
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How Far Can an Apple AirTag Track?
An Apple AirTag’s location is pinpointed by nearby Find My network devices picked up via Bluetooth. So the device you use to locate that AirTag can be quite far away from the tag.
That said, the AirTag itself operates on Bluetooth 5.0, which has a range of about 800 feet. It has to be within range of a Bluetooth-enabled device on the Find My network to be searchable from a long distance.
Otherwise, you’ll have to have your search device within the Bluetooth range of the AirTag to find it.
How Do I Stop AirTag From Tracking Me?
The only way to stop an AirTag from tracking you is to find it and move away from it or to disable it. The only way to disable an AirTag is to remove its battery.
According to Apple, to remove an AirTag battery, push down and twist counterclockwise on the back of the tag. Take off the cover and remove the battery. Once you’ve removed it, the AirTag’s owner can no longer track it.
AirTags work anywhere with a device with Bluetooth and the Find My network within its range. If there’s someone with an iPhone nearby, it would work hundreds or even thousands of miles away from you.
If there isn’t a nearby device to pick up the AirTag’s signal, you won’t be able to find it on the Find My network.
Is It Worth Having an AirTag?
Apple has always been on the cutting edge of technology, and the AirTag is no different. Although it may raise some privacy concerns for people, the AirTag is a very innovative product that can be extremely useful.
If you often lose things or want to keep track of your belongings, an AirTag might be worth the investment.
However, if you are not particularly concerned about losing things and value your privacy, you may want to reconsider.
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