Everything you need to know about how AirTags work

On September 30, a TikTok user posted a video of them removing an AirTag from under their bumper after receiving a notification from Apple that an unrecognized device was nearby. The video, which has been viewed more than 3 million times, is one of many posts that have gone viral recently, with people sharing the same fear: that unknown AirTags might be tracking them.

Back in April 2021, Apple announced AirTags, a $29 Bluetooth accessory designed to help you keep tabs on your valuables. AirTags can be attached to personal items such as wallets, bags, and even pets, and they can be discovered through the Find My app. But soon after the devices came out, reports began to surface of people using AirTags to track the location of others.

"Apple's AirTags are the latest example of products released by [tech giants] susceptible to malicious use," attorney Carrie Goldberg, PLLC, founder of victims' rights firm CA Goldberg, tells Bustle. She added that whenever new technology like this is released, there's an influx of customers worried about their safety. "Whether used to stalk an attractive stranger home or allow a jealous and controlling person to spy on their partner, AirTags, once misused, can be abused for purposes more threatening than stalking," Goldberg explain. (Bustle reached out to Apple for comment and we will update this article when we hear back.)

On February 10, Apple issued a statement saying that AirTags were created to locate personal items, "not to track people or other people's property, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms any malicious use of our products." The company added, It is working with law enforcement to "prevent further unnecessary tracking."

In the post, Apple announced AirTag security updates, like the previous pop-up that let you know if there were nearby AirTags that didn't belong to you. (Prior to this update, the alert could take up to 24 hours to complete.) They add that this notification will also specifically let you know what the device is, rather than just saying "Unknown accessory nearby," so you can It is possible to know what the device is. You won't panic if your sibling accidentally leaves their AirPods in your car. This update will also adjust the tone order of AirTags that your device doesn't recognize, making it easier to find and disable them. Finally, Apple will issue a warning to new AirTag users that tracking someone without consent is a crime. Apple's release did not confirm when these updates will be available to all users.

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If you receive one of these notifications or find an unknown AirTag in your belongings, search for the tag and disable it if found. While Goldberg recommends calling the police to report foreign AirTags, she advises against having lower expectations about what law enforcement can do in a tracking situation, especially if you don't immediately know who might want to track you. Goldberg said contacting an attorney can increase your chances of getting more information from Apple about the AirTags owner, information that could be used to identify them if you decide to file criminal charges. To be extra vigilant, Goldberg recommends changing passwords on all social media and email accounts (where the stalker might try to access) and letting friends or family know what's going on.

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Before deciding whether to take any legal action, you need to disable AirTags and stop them from tracking you. Here's what you need to know about how AirTags work to protect yourself.

How do AirTags work?

When you register an AirTag and connect it to your device, it emits a Bluetooth signal that can be detected by nearby devices on the Find My network. The device transmits the AirTag's location to your iCloud. You can open the Find My app to see the AirTag's location on a map and get directions to the location. If the item is very close (for example, in your living room), you can follow the instructions in the Find My map. If the distance is greater, such as if you left your wallet at a coffee shop, you'll see the distance in miles next to the item. If the distance is more than a few feet, it will give you street directions to the item. Once you think you're close to the item, you can play a sound in the Find My app, and the built-in speakers on the AirTag will emit sound until you find it.

Are AirTags safe?

The AirTags you purchase for yourself are safe. The location of your AirTags is anonymous and encrypted, which means if you can't find your AirTags, not even Apple can find your AirTags. Without access to your phone or iCloud account, the location of your AirTagged items is untraceable, which means others can't hack into your personal AirTags to track you.

How to disable AirTags


If you receive a notification that an unknown AirTags is near you, or you find one among your belongings, you need to disable it as soon as possible. If you're an iPhone user running iOS 14.5, you can disable AirTags through the Find My app; just click the instructions on the security alert notification.

Android users can download a free app called Tracker Detect to manually scan for nearby Bluetooth devices, but AirTags cannot be disabled through the app. Android users need to find the AirTag and then disable it by removing the battery. After finding the unknown AirTag, push down and rotate the back of the AirTag counterclockwise. This will release the cover so you can remove the battery. Once the battery dies, the owner can no longer track it.

Using your phone, hover your mouse over the AirTag to display the serial number. If you plan to contact the police about being tracked without your consent, you will want to write down this number as it may help identify the owner.