Apple Airtag | Mark Chan Unsplash

Erin Yarwood is a Mustang News Opinion Columnist. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

Cynics of technology are constantly criticizing its downfalls and the lack of privacy that technological advancements cause. Safety and privacy issues seem to be an inevitable accessory to new inventions, and AirTags are yet another example of technology putting the safety of a lot of people at risk.

In 2021, Apple announced its newest product to hit the market, the Apple AirTag. AirTags are tracking devices that use bluetooth to contact nearby Apple devices in the “Find My” app. By attaching the AirTag to objects like your keys, wallet, or backpack, they will be easy to find when lost. 

The company Tile has had tracking products like this on the market for years, but while products like the AirTag have been released before, none of them have as precise location accuracy as Apple’s technology allows. This accuracy has its benefits, but there are very valid concerns over how they can be used by stalkers to follow their victims.

AirTags are about the length of a triple A battery, smooth, and round. This design makes them extremely easy to hide in a backpack, pocket, car, or purse without any notice. An innovative feature of the AirTag is Precision Finding, which shows the owner of the AirTag the exact distance and direction to move in order to find the tracking device. The ideal way for a stalker to track someone. 

As a safety precaution, Apple included a warning system that alerts an iPhone or other Apple device if an AirTag that is unfamiliar to that device is “following” you. While this system is at least an effort by Apple to protect the safety of people, it’s definitely not foolproof.

The problem is that not everyone owns an iPhone, which leaves non-iPhone users at a higher risk. Even if an alert is sent out informing the owner of an Apple device that it is being tracked, it may not be fast enough. Other iPhone users may not have the alerts turned on for their device. Many people probably wouldn’t even take the alert seriously. 

Due to these valid concerns, Apple and Google announced that they have developed an advancement that will identify someone if an AirTag is moving with them, despite the type of device the person is carrying. This means that both Android and Apple users will be able to be alerted for possible stalking. However, the companies did not state when the update would be available. 

Despite multiple reports of AirTags being utilized by stalkers to track their victims, the product is still a huge success. Apple’s AirTags are not the first time that technology has outpaced a person’s right to privacy. It also won’t be the last. It is important to stay educated on ways to keep yourself safe.

If your Apple device alerts you that an unknown AirTag is tracking you, tap the alert, press continue, and click Play Sound. The AirTag should play a noise, allowing you to detect the device. The Find Nearby option on the alert will direct you to the AirTag if a sound option is not available. You can also use the FindMy app to track the item. The app should also show a red dotted line, signifying where the AirTag has followed you from. 

If you feel in danger after detecting an AirTag, contact the police. Cal Poly Safer has safety information regarding AirTags, on their Instagram. Cal Poly has a history of stalking incidents, and it is vital that students stay updated on the latest ways their privacy is being put at risk.