If you’re getting alerts about missing AirTags on your iPhone, you’re not alone: Apple has confirmed that some users are seeing “phantom AirTag alerts” notifying them of trackers that aren’t actually there.
This is from an article in the Wall Street Journal, stating that the bug shows straight red lines emanating from a user’s location – but then there’s no sign of the reported AirTag. It’s not clear how many people saw it, but Apple has confirmed it’s happening.
An anti-stalking update for these handheld tracking devices was released just a few days ago, but this issue appears to be older: The WSJ says the Phantom AirTag bug has been impacting users for the “last few weeks.”
An Apple spokesman told the WSJ that iPhones with location services could be “temporarily confused” by Wi-Fi signals and that AirTags owned by other users could “unintentionally trigger unwanted alerts” in densely populated areas.
At least for the first problem, there is a temporary solution, which is to turn location services on and off on the phone. When you open the iOS settings screen on your iPhone, you can find the option in the privacy menu.
We don’t yet know if a software patch will be required to permanently fix the problem, but in the meantime, keep an eye out for AirTag alerts — just don’t be surprised if you get one for a tracker device that does this actually can’t be found.
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If you lose something with an AirTag attached, you can (anonymously and privately) enlist the help of every other iPhone on the planet to find out where it is. AirTags don’t have a built-in location report, but they can connect to nearby iPhones.
It’s a really useful feature, but it also means these trackers can be marked as lost by their owners and then used to keep track of someone’s location (e.g. through their bag, car or coat). ). It’s a problem for all Bluetooth trackers like this, but the ubiquity of iPhones — particularly in the US — means it’s a particular problem for AirTags.
The solution that Apple has provided is to warn users when an AirTag that doesn’t belong to them is following them. Apple has also pushed aside an android app to do the same task on smartphones that are not iPhones.
It’s a necessary protection, but the new Wall Street Journal report reveals that it’s not always easy to tell when an AirTag is nearby, especially in crowded urban areas. It is expected that the technology and associated algorithms will improve over time, so this issue is temporary.
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