AirTags were already known to have a stalking problem, but it now looks like the tiny trackers have an anti-stalking phantom alert issue as well. Almost immediately after the location tracker was first announced, privacy concerns started to be raised. Since then, the concerns have continued to grow and Apple has made substantial changes in a bid to help protect privacy.
One of the major benefits of AirTags over other location trackers is how precise they can be. These items are not only able to draw on the substantive Find My network, but they also feature a U1 chip which makes it possible to pinpoint their location with even greater accuracy. However, this combination has led to a number of unwanted side effects. For example, AirTags have reportedly been used to steal cars and to track people by placing an AirTag close to them.
As part of the move to make the use of AirTags safer, it would seem that they have now developed a phantom stalking problem. Apple previously added a feature that alerts a user when an AirTag might be tracking them, and as The Wall Street Journal explains, there have since been multiple reports of users being alerted to a potential situation even though there was no actual situation. According to the report, some users have received these false alerts in the middle of the night, which is only likely to further add to any concerns someone might have.
As part of the anti-stalking measure, iPhone users are able to check a map to see the location of an AirTag once an alert has been generated. According to the report, all of these fake alerts tend to result in “straight red lines radiating out from the user’s location” when viewing the map. The lines are so straight that the map shows them essentially passing through whatever is in their way, including buildings. As the report explains, this seems to be further evidence that the phantom alerts are the result of a bug. In response to the claims, an Apple spokesman explained that the problem might stem from an issue with the iPhone’s location services. A solution offered was to simply turn Location Services off and back on again.
Regardless of the reason, phantom AirTag alerts are likely to be an issue that Apple will have to look at in more detail and fix, if possible. While it is important that people are alerted when an AirTag could be potentially tracking them, false alerts run the risk of causing their own issues and concerns. Not to mention, these false alarms continue to add to the idea that AirTags are fundamentally problematic to begin with.