CHICAGO (CBS) — An urgent warning has been issued about Apple’s new AirTag – a tool designed to help you find your keys or wallet or anything else you may misplace, but which instead has been used by some to track down people.
CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey has been digging into reports of AirTag being abused in Chicago. It is to the point where some victims have already gone to police over stalking concerns.
By appearance, AirTag is a little circular tracking device. Its purpose is to pinpoint the location of a missing item within a foot — and it can even play a notification sound to help you find it.
But what if that thing that it’s tracking down is a person who doesn’t want to be found?
Model Brooks Nader recently shared a warning for her Instagram followers after she learned that someone had slipped an Apple AirTag into her coat pocket at a bar.
“It was an AirTag, which is a tiny little white circular thing,” Nader said in an Instagram video. “I had no idea that these existed until it happened to me, so I’m kind of just trying to raise awareness.”
Unfortunately, Nader is not the first person to find an AirTag tracking her instead of someone’s keys. One Chicago woman who asked us not to share her identity found an AirTag in her purse after receiving this series of notifications from Apple that someone was tracking her movements across Chicago and the suburbs.
Apple emphasizes that AirTags are not designed to track people, and there are safety features. But police reports obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the CBS 2 Investigators show a 26-year-old woman also went to police when she said the man who she had an order of protection against placed an AirTag in her car.
Another 45-year-old Chicago woman went to police when she started getting notifications that she was being tracked, too.
“It can be weaponized,” said Stephanie Love-Patterson, executive director of Connections for Abused Women and their Children.
Love-Patterson says that even though the AirTags were only launched in the spring, they’re already well aware of the potential issues for stalking victims. She tells victims to look out for the notifications and take them seriously.
“If they know that there’s someone actively looking for them, we really at CAWC talk to our clients about being really vigilant; about making sure that there’s no possible devices, as much as they can, and that are around that are able to help the perpetrator to locate them,” Love-Patterson said.
An Apple spokesperson said that they “take customer safety very seriously,” which is why they developed that automatic notification system.
It is possible to disable an AirTag altogether by taking the battery out.
All this being said, Hickey also found a case where AirTags were being used for good.
We came across a police report for an armed carjacking in October where the victim was able to track his car thanks to an Apple AirTag, and police were able to recover it thanks to those directions.
Source: CBS Chicago