Recent reports have highlighted the nefarious side of the new technology, but there are steps you can take to stay safe.
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Tech is supposed to make our busy—and at times overwhelming—lives easier. Ever since Apple AirTags, tiny, Bluetooth-enabled discs that allow you to easily track anything from your car keys to your cat, came out earlier this year, they've aimed to be a tool that'll make your hectic parenting life simpler and less stressful. But recent reports have highlighted the nefarious side of the new technology.

This week, a Maryland woman wrote a Twitter thread about a stalker attaching an AirTag to her Lexus before she left a bar around 2 a.m.

"So something kinda terrifying happened to me last night," the 28-year-old woman wrote in a since privacy-blocked tweet, according to the New York Post. "Someone attached an Apple AirTag to the underside of my front wheel well while I was inside a bar."

The Baltimore woman, identified as Jeana, explained in the thread that it was 2 a.m. and she was driving away with no cars around her. "I kept getting this alert for like 30 mins straight," she wrote alongside a series of iPhone notification screenshots that read, "AirTag Found Moving With You: The location of this AirTag can be seen by the owner."

She thought nothing of it, because she had gotten the alert before while in traffic. "Sometimes when you're near other [people] for a while on the road Apple thinks it's following you," Jeana tweeted. "But it was late, and I started to make a bunch of right turns and run counter and I was still repeatedly getting this message."

She decided to drive to a safe location. "I checked all my things, like my purse, my trench coat pockets, my wallet—couldn't find anything. Then I was like what if they stuck it on my car? But I didn't find anything," she tweeted. "I didn't wanna go home, so I spent the night somewhere and just said I'd figure it out in the morning."

Jeana then noted that a friend found the AirTag mounted on the underside of her vehicle's front passenger wheel the following day.

The Twitter user concluded, "It bothers me cause no matter how safe women try to be (I was NEVER alone, parked somewhere well lit, etc…), it doesn't matter if someone truly wishes to harm you."

She then shared a screenshot of Apple's AirTag privacy description, which notes, "Only you can see where your AirTag is. Your location data and history are never stored on the AirTag itself. Devices that relay the location of your AirTag also stay anonymous, and that location data is encrypted every step of the way. So not even Apple knows the location of your AirTag or the identity of the device that helps find it."

Since her tweet thread blew up, Jeana has declined to comment, but a spokesperson for Apple 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. We are raising the bar on privacy for our users and the industry, and hope others will follow."

In the meantime, Jeana is far from the only person who's reported a troubling incident involving an AirTag.

The Washington Post reports that in Ontario, Canada, Michigan, and Atlanta, AirTags have been found on "high-end" cars, seemingly as a way for car thieves to track and steal them later. And the newspaper notes that "at least one Washington Post reader has reached out to the Help Desk because they found an AirTag tucked into a package of old personal items their ex had mailed them."

Steps You Can Take To Stay Safe

While this news is no doubt alarming, there are steps you can take to preempt a concerning AirTag incident:

The Washington Post notes that if you have an Apple device that's running Apple's iOS 14.5 software or newer, it will automatically alert you if it detects a nearby AirTag that doesn't belong to you. Then, you can open your Find My app to see if you've been tracked and force the AirTag to play a sound so you can locate it. If you find one that's not yours, you can disable it by pushing down on the metal plate, turning it clockwise, and removing the battery. Then you can contact law enforcement to report the incident.

Android users can download an app called Tracker Detect, which can be downloaded for free from Google's Play Store. The app allows you to hit a "Scan" button, which will turn up any Bluetooth-enabled trackers around you. Once you've identified any that don't belong to you, you can report what you've found to your local police.