New York Attorney General issues AirTags consumer safety alert

An Apple AirTag attached to a back pack.
Apple says it will update AirTags to better protect privacy. Photo credit: Getty Images

The New York Attorney General has issued a consumer safety alert over Apple's AirTags, despite the company announcing a range of new functionalities to protect privacy.

Letitia James said the safety recommendations were intended to protect New Yorkers from "bad actors" using the AirTags to track individuals and their belongings "for harmful purposes".

The Cupertino-based tech giant said last week it was working closely with law enforcement agencies and safety groups to identify how the coin-sized devices work.

That has included providing details of ownership to police, which is tracked via the unique serial number and an individual's Apple ID.

"Through our own evaluations and these discussions, we have identified even more ways we can update AirTag safety warnings and help guard against further unwanted tracking," Apple said.

More changes, including the volume of the beep and additional 'precision finding' to narrow down where unwanted devices could be, will be rolled out later this year.

James said people had reported finding AirTags attached to their cars as well as in their purses and coat pockets.

"Others have reportedly received alerts on their phones that their location information is being shared, even when the targets do not find an AirTag or another connected accessory," the alert said. 

"Across the country, Apple AirTags are being misused to track people and their belongings to cause harm," James said.

"Tracking people without their awareness or consent is a serious felony and will not be tolerated."

The tips provided by the consumer alert include listening for unfamiliar beeping and keeping an eye for 'item detected near you' notifications on iPhones.

Android users are being urged to download Apple's Tracker Detect app from the Play Store so any rogue AirTag use can be identified on their devices too.

Apple also updates its guidance regularly, James said, and users should be aware of the company's recommendations.

If anyone finds an unfamiliar AirTag, whether in New York, Aotearoa or anywhere else, the advice is consistent. Hold the AirTag close to your phone to get information about it and its serial number. Write that down and then follow the on-screen instructions to disable the AirTag by removing the battery.

Local law enforcement can then be called for assistance.