With the development of the Apple AirTag, inconveniences such as lost items or misplaced valuables can potentially be avoided.
The AirTag is a tracking device developed by Apple to locate missing belongings using a design similar to the “Find My iPhone” feature included on their devices. The device connects via Bluetooth to any compatible smart device to report its location.
Often used as a key fob, the tracker can be placed on a key ring to keep track of lost keys, in a purse or purse, or attached to something that might be misplaced often.
However, people are concerned that this technology is being misused or misused, especially in congested areas with high foot traffic like a college campus. This concern is due to the wider commercialization and production of this type of tracker and the fact that it can be used to track or locate people without their knowledge.
The Grand Valley Police Department (GVPD) hopes to address concerns about technology like the AirTag and educate students on the best ways to practice cybersecurity.
GVPD Captain Jeffery Stoll said there was no need to immediately assume malicious intent.
“It’s possible in this area for Bluetooth interactions between AirTags and other phones to occur, but that doesn’t necessarily mean someone is tracking you,” Stoll said. “So if you have an AirTag by your side, your phone can try to pick it up.”
For an AirTag to start tracking something, it must first be activated on the smart device. The technology reaches compatible phones, trying to confirm where location data should be reported.
In a very dense area where many compatible devices are all together, there is a higher possibility of an AirTag trying to pair with the wrong smartphone by accident.
In this case, a notification will appear on the screen indicating that an unknown device is trying to connect via Bluetooth.
Stoll said this can sometimes be concerning for students, especially if they don’t have an AirTag.
“Your friend next to you might have an AirTag and the phones just connect in a very densely populated area like Grand Valley,” Stoll said. “I think you’ll figure out where if people have a lot of AirTags, it’s possible that (due to proximity) the phones are trying to connect and there’s no negative intent.”
With the popularity of the Apple AirTag and the number of devices on campus, GVPD is trying to help those concerned about the misuse of technology determine what is threatening and what is not.
Stoll said there had been a report of an AirTag tracking issue, but after reconnecting with the caller and further reviewing the report, there was actually no reason to s ‘worry.
Understanding technology is as important as using it responsibly.
“I want to be clear that we don’t see these endemic situations where people throw an AirTag in a car to track someone,” Stoll said. “We just don’t see that right now. Just be aware of the impact this technology can have on you.
The GVPD and the campus community value security, both in the cyber world and in general. Apple AirTag concerns are valid, but not common in college.
“I think everyone is learning because this is a relatively recent piece released by Apple,” Stoll said. “So part of it is just learning too.”