Apple announced a software update Thursday that will issue privacy warnings when AirTag users set up a new device. The warnings tell users that AirTags are meant to track personal items, not people, and that non-consensually tracking and following someone is against the law.
Apple also said it will roll out more AirTag-related software updates throughout the year, including features that allow people to precisely locate unwanted AirTags nearby and an Android version of the “Find My” app. The company also repeated that it is working closely with law enforcement to help find and prosecute people using AirTags for nefarious purposes.
Apple believes these features will reduce AirTag stalking, a new phenomenon in which bad actors discreetly attach an AirTag to someone they want to track. News reports started exposing criminal instances of AirTag stalking in December, nearly eight months after Apple launched the product. However, privacy experts immediately sounded the alarm when the product was first released.
The company already had programmed AirTags with several features meant to reduce stalking. iPhone users receive an alert when an AirTag has been moving with them, for example, and each device has a unique serial number. The devices also beep when they have been separated from their associated iPhone after a period of time, which Apple says is between eight and 24 hours.
Still, AirTag stalking poses a big issue for Apple and its advertised focus on consumer privacy. The company quickly published a safety guide when the first cases of real-life stalking were reported, and is now updating its software for the second time.Now, it's trying to brand its response as yet another way Apple is leading the industry towards better user privacy. “We innovated with the first-ever proactive system to alert you of unwanted tracking,” the company said in a Thursday press release. “We hope this starts an industry trend for others to also provide these sorts of proactive warnings in their products.”