Yahoo Finance’s Dan Howley joins the live show to discuss the Apple AirTag and its tracking capabilities.
AKIKO FUJITA: Dan Howley from Yahoo Finance joins us now to explain as part of our Technical Support segment presented by Verizon. Dan?
DAN HOWLEY: That’s right, Akiko. Here it is an AirTag. He’s a tiny little guy. It’s about a little bigger than a quarter. And you can use it to track things like your keys, your wallet, anything you think 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 allows you to get incredibly precise positioning on something that you might lose.
But as you said, there have been a growing number of reports of people having AirTags planted inside their bumpers or inside their car license plates, at the inside their jacket pockets, all without knowing it. And this is very worrying. So there are several things you can do if you think you have an AirTag with you or if you receive an alert.
And the first thing is this alert. If you are an iOS user, you have an iPhone, if there is an AirTag that is not with its user for a while, the person who actually owns it and is registered to, if they notice that missing from them, they will send an alert to the nearest iPhone that an AirTag has been found.
Now there are two reasons for this. The first is maybe you’re, you know, sitting on a park bench and someone forgot their keys. This will let you know there is an AirTag there and keys. And then you can use it to identify who the owner is and return the keys to them. The other, however, is in case someone plants one in your vehicle, puts it in your jacket pocket without you knowing. This is the security aspect.
So when you receive this alert, it will show up on your iPhone. You can see it is an unknown AirTag. And then you can actually see how much he followed you, so from when he started following where you are now over a period of time. And then from this setting you can also go ahead and disable it using the software provided by Apple in this notification. So that’s the first part.
The second part is that after – between eight and 24 hours, so in this timeline, you’re going to start hearing an audible beep from an AirTag if it’s with you and not its original owner. Now the beep is not incredibly loud. If it’s, for example, outside your car and you’re driving it, you won’t be able to hear it.
But the thing is, if it’s in your purse, if you find it, you know, you hear something, and it beeps, and it comes out of your pocket, that would be the AirTag. Then what you can do is scan that and see who it is. If you are an Android user, things are a little more difficult. It’s not exactly as well done as on the iPhone.
In fact, you need to download a separate app on your Android device to be able to scan the AirTag. And it’s only troubling because, you know, if you’re an iPhone user, you get this alert. If you are an Android user, this is not the case. You have to trust the sound. So, my advice is if you are nervous about something like that, download this AirTag tracker app. It is called Tracker Detect in the Android store.
And this will then allow you to search for nearby trackers compatible with Apple’s Find My Network. And that includes AirTags. You will still hear these audible noises. But it’s better to be able to pick that up. And really, you know, these are… these are reports. You know, there was one Thursday about two women in California being stalked.
The– there was a report from a– a Sports Illustrated model recently who said that someone put one in her jacket pocket when she was at a bar. So it… it happens. It’s not incredibly common. But it is something to watch out for. So if you take these steps, you will be able to protect yourself. And then, as Apple says, if you find one, contact the police if you feel unsafe.
AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, Dan, I mean, it’s like so many stories in technology where, you know, you find a product that’s not necessarily being used the way the creators intended. I mean, sure, you can turn it off. But there must be concerns about the data already available at this stage. What does Apple say about this?
DAN HOWLEY: They’re basically saying that the — the features they’ve built in are designed for security and tracking. And to Apple’s credit, you know, there are other tracking devices out there that don’t have the kind of security features built into AirTags. So this is a way to 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, somebody could also use it to see if, you know, your… your destination or your location. So it’s not just AirTags. But they’re relatively cheap compared to a pair of AirPods. So, you know, it’s not something completely unheard of. But I think, you know, Apple’s built-in security features are good. The question is, do they go far enough? And given the kind of reports we’re seeing, that might not be the case.