Brooks Nader, a 26-year-old model living in New York City, says she was followed for five hours after a stranger put an AirTag in her coat pocket. Nader relayed the incident on her Instagram story.
“I never share stuff like this but what the F^% does this mean?” Nader wrote over an iPhone screenshot. “This ‘device’ followed me for the last 5 hours to every location and was no one in my ‘network.’ It also wasn’t a phone or tablet, it was an ‘item’…”
The alert Nader received was added to iOS in November after safety watchdogs and security experts raised concerns about how very easy it would be to track someone’s location via AirTag without them knowing. If someone had tried this trick on her just a few months ago, she would’ve been none the wiser.
Whoever slipped the AirTag into Nader’s bag did not end up confronting her. They easily could have done so; she really just got lucky.
This could’ve been worse — Nader’s stalking situation is already pretty horrifying, and there are many ways in which it could’ve turned out much worse. She says she didn’t receive an alert until the AirTag had been in her bag for nearly five hours, giving the stranger all too much time to follow her around the city.
Nader is also lucky she happens to be an iPhone user. If she’d been using an Android phone, she wouldn’t have been alerted to the AirTag’s presence at all. Apple did create an Android app called Tracker Detect to find unknown AirTags in your vicinity — but it’s a severely flawed app. Tracker Detect only works when the user opens the app and hits the scan button. It doesn’t run in the background at all. For someone like Nader, who didn’t even really know what an AirTag was before this incident, that app wouldn’t have been even a little useful.
Apple’s not doing enough — Nader posted her story in an attempt to raise awareness about this issue. She’s not the first to experience it, but she does have a large (827K strong) audience to which she can speak. She tagged Apple in her post, too, hoping for some accountability.
When pressed on this issue, Apple’s response is always the same: Our tracker tech is the safest around. The company told the New York Post:
“We take customer safety very seriously and are committed to AirTag’s privacy and security. AirTag is designed with a set of proactive features to discourage unwanted tracking — a first in the industry — and the Find My network includes a smart, tunable system with deterrents that applies to AirTag, as well as third-party products as part of the Find My network accessory program.”
Apple is right on one count, at least — its anti-stalking features are some of the best in the industry. Tile, which has made trackers far longer than Apple, even upgraded its own security features once AirTags were out in the world.
It’s clear Apple’s proactive measures aren’t proactive enough. This problem isn’t limited to Apple, either. It’s larger than any one company. At some point we have to ask ourselves: Is the widespread proliferation of high-accuracy smart trackers opening us to more harm than good?