Apple on Thursday announced updates to coin-sized AirTag tracking devices to prevent them from being used to secretly track people, rather than just finding lost keys, wallets or other items.
Launched early last year, AirTag devices are designed to be affixed to things people tend to miss, syncing wirelessly with iPhone models, iPad devices or iPod Touch devices to signal where they can be found.
Reports quickly emerged of AirTags being used for more unscrupulous purposes, such as being secretly trapped in a car and then stealing it or figuring out where the owner is going.
“We are aware that individuals may receive unwanted tracking alerts for benign reasons, such as borrowing keys from someone with an AirTag attached,” Apple said in a post.
“We’ve also seen reports of bad actors trying to misuse the AirTag for malicious or criminal purposes.”
Apple said it is working with law enforcement and security groups to prevent misuse, which it says is rare.
Newer iPhone models will alert owners of an “unknown accessory detected” when they sense an unidentified AirTag within range.
The AirTag software is being updated to display a warning the first time it is used that tracking people without their consent is a crime in many places and Apple will share the identities of owners with law enforcement when necessary.
Apple said it is working to allow iPhone devices to more accurately locate AirTag gadgets to help people find any planted without their consent.
“AirTag is designed to help people locate their personal belongings, not to track people or other people’s property,” Apple said in the post.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms any malicious use of our products.”
Apple released software late last year so that people with Android smartphones can detect if an AirTag is nearby.