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Apple creates personal safety guide as AirTag concerns mount

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On Tuesday, Apple quietly launched a Personal Safety User Guide to help “anyone who is concerned about or experience technology-enabled abuse, stalking or harassment.” The guide is a resource hub to help people figure out what their options are if they wish to remove someone’s access to shared information, as well as personal safety features available across the Apple ecosystem. Most notably, it includes a “Stay safe with AirTag and other Find My accessories” page at a time when an increasing number of people have come forward about being stalked with the devices.

As pointed out by 9to5Mac, the hub is mostly repackaging a data privacy guide that was first published about a year ago. Overall, it’s a good thing to create an easily accessible resource to help people keep their information safe or find out what to do in the event their safety is threatened. The hub is divided into an introductory explainer, a section called “review and take action,” personal safety checklists, and a list of available safety and privacy tools. Aside from AirTag safety, the guide also addresses issues like blocking unknown-sign in attempts, how to store data securely in iCloud, how to set up Touch and FaceID, and controlling how others might be able to see your location.

While the guide is helpful, the timing is unsurprising. Several outlets, including CNBC, BBC News, The Guardian, and The New York Times, have run stories in the past few weeks detailing multiple instances of users receiving alerts they’d been tracked by an unknown AirTag. Others have shared their personal experiences directly to social media like TikTok, and in early January, Sports Illustrated model Brooks Nader shared her own experience in her Instagram Stories.

When the AirTags launched in April 2021, Apple emphasized the devices had anti-stalking measures built-in. That included notifications sent to iPhones if an AirTag was detected moving with them over time and sound alerts. However, some reviewers heavily criticized the measures as being insufficient, especially since it initially took three days for the AirTags to play a sound alert. Apple then changed that to a random period between eight and 24 hours after being separated from the owner’s iPhone. Apple also recently released the Tracker Detect app to help Android users scan for unwanted AirTags in their vicinity. Pennsylvania State Representative John Galloway has also proposed legislation to prohibit AirTags from being used for anything other than finding lost items.

Apple’s AirTag safety article in the Personal Safety User Guide is fairly basic. It gives a simple rundown of how Bluetooth identifiers in the Find My network are frequently changed, what the anti-stalking measures are, what to do if you hear an AirTag alert or receive a notification, and how to check for AirTags on Android. The gist is to identify whether the item was lost, play a sound to locate the AirTag, and notify local law enforcement in the event a user feels their safety is at risk. However, a common theme from recent reports is that despite receiving notifications, police were unaware of how to help victims and that attempts to find the sneaky AirTags weren’t always successful.

That said, the guide does float an important reminder: You may not be able to receive these alerts at all if you don’t have a compatible device running the correct software. For starters, your device must be updated to at least iOS or iPad OS 14.5. Thankfully, while this covers the majority of Apple devices currently supported, not everyone is diligent about keeping their firmware up to date. If you’re unsure, you can check here to see if your device is compatible. You can also head to Settings > General > Software Update to check if you’re running the latest version of iOS and iPad OS.

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