In a nutshell: Apple appears to address several issues regarding stalking in the most recent iOS15.4 beta. It has changed the iCloud connect notification, shortened the alert time, and added precise tracking in case the speaker has been disabled. It will also notify users if someone else’s AirPods follow them.
The latest beta build of iOS 15.4 just rolled out, and new features are starting to trickle in as testers dig into it. We already know its long-awaited, much-delayed Face ID with a mask is included. It’s also getting Tap to Pay, an Apple Card widget, and a new “gender-neutral” Siri voice. Apple is also changing how AirTags interact with iPhones to address recent concerns about stalking.
As 9to5Mac notes, when setting up an AirTag, iOS 15.4 makes it abundantly clear with a popup notification that it is linked to the user’s Apple ID and that AirTags are designed to warn victims. It notes that Apple will turn over identifying information to law enforcement if used illegally.
In addition to the new notice, developers have shortened the time it takes before users are notified an AirTags is with them. The timing was something that Apple said it would tweak after launch when the devices had been out in the wild for a bit. Of course, the timing of the alert cannot overcome an attacker disabling the speaker in the AirTag.
Disabling a speaker doesn’t affect tracking, though. Users will still see notifications on-screen. The audible alert was more for finding the rogue tracker. To mitigate this, Apple added a feature to precisely locate a rogue AirTag when detected using ultrawideband tracking. Previously, this technique was only used to pinpoint a user’s own fobs. It only works if someone else’s Tag has been traveling with you, though.
Users have had the ability to track their own AirPods for a while now. Although there have not been any reports of AirPods being used to track someone, the potential is there since they work in the same way as AirTags. To tackle it before it becomes an issue, a semi-related feature in iOS 15.4 is rogue AirPod detection. While you cannot find someone else’s AirPods, iOS 15.4 will alert you if it detects a set following you. So similar anti-stalking features appear to be trickling over to other easy-to-hide Apple devices.