What to know about the device’s tracking capabilities

Yahoo Finance’s Dan Howley joins the Live show to discuss the Apple AirTag and its tracking capabilities.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Yahoo Finance’s Dan Howley joins us now to explain as part of our tech support segment presented by Verizon. Dan?

DAN HOWLEY: That’s right, Akiko. This right here is an AirTag. It’s a tiny little guy. It’s about a little bit larger than a quarter. And you can use it to track things like your keys, your wallet, anything that you think that you would usually lose. I’ve seen a lot of people, actually, when I go to the park, put them on their dogs, because it really does allow you to get incredibly accurate positioning on something that you may lose.

But as you said, there’s been an increasing number of reports of people having AirTags being planted inside their bumpers or inside their license plates of their cars, inside their jacket pockets, all of this unknowingly. And that is very concerning. So there are a few things that you can do if you think that you have an AirTag with you or you actually get an alert.

And the first thing is that alert. If you’re an iOS user, you have an iPhone, if there is an AirTag that is not with its user for a certain amount of time, the person that actually owns it and it’s registered to, if it notices that they’re away from them, they will send an alert to the nearest iPhone saying that there’s been an AirTag found.

Now there’s two reasons for this. One is perhaps you’re, you know, sitting on a park bench and someone forgot their keys. It’ll let you know that there is an AirTag there and keys. And then you can use that to identify who the owner is and get the keys back to them. The other, though, is in case someone plants one on you in your vehicle, puts it in your jacket pocket without you knowing. That’s the security aspect of it.

And so when you do get that alert, it’ll show up on your iPhone. You can see that it’s an unknown AirTag. And then you can actually see how much it’s tracked you, so from what point it started tracking to where you are now over how long of a period of time. And then from that setting, you can also go ahead and disable it using the software that Apple provides in that notification. So that’s part one.

Part two is that after– between eight and 24 hours, so in that timeline, you’re going to start to hear an audible beeping from an AirTag if it’s with you and not with its original owner. Now the beeping isn’t incredibly loud. If it’s, for instance, outside of your car and you’re driving it, you’re not going to be able to hear it.

But the point is, if it’s in your purse, if you find it, you know, you hear something, and it’s beeping, and it’s coming from your pocket, that would be the AirTag. Then what you can do is scan that and see whose it is. If you’re an Android user, things are a little bit more difficult. It’s not exactly as well done as on the iPhone.

In fact, you have to download an actual separate app on your Android device to be able to scan the AirTag. And that’s only troubling because, you know, if you’re an iPhone user, you get that alert. If you’re an Android user, you don’t. You have to rely on the sound. So my advice is, if you’re nervous about something like this, download that AirTag tracking app. It’s called Tracker Detect from the Android store.

And it will allow you to then scan for nearby trackers that are compatible with Apple’s Find My Network. And that includes the AirTags. You’ll still hear those audible noises. But it’s better to be able to pick that up. And really, you know, these are– these have been reports. You know, there was one on Thursday about two women in California who had been tracked.

The– there was a report of a– a “Sports Illustrated” model recently who said that someone placed one in her jacket pocket when she was at a bar. So it– it does happen. It’s not incredibly common. But it is something to watch out for. So if you take those steps, you’ll be able to keep yourself safe. And then as Apple says, if you do find one, then reach out to the police if you feel like you’re in danger.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, Dan, I mean, this is like so many stories in tech where, you know, you find a product that’s not necessarily used in the way the creators intended it to be. I mean, sure, you can turn it off. But there’s got to be concerns about what data is already available at that point. What is Apple saying about that?

DAN HOWLEY: They basically say that the– the features that they have built-in are designed for safety and for tracking. And to Apple’s credit, you know, there are other tracking devices out there that don’t have the, kind of, safety features that AirTags have built-in. So these are a way to help prevent you from being tracked. And look, you know, if you have a– a pair of AirPods, they also have a– a Find My Tracker on them just in case you misplaced them.

But, you know, someone could use that as well to see if, you know, your– your destination or your location. So it’s not just the AirTags. But they’re relatively cheap compared to a pair of AirPods. So, you know, it– it’s not something that is completely unheard of. But I think, you know, the safety features that Apple has built-in are good. The question is, do they go far enough? And seeing the, kind of, reports that we’re seeing, it– they just might not.

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