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Apple AirTags spark fears of stalking in Sacramento region

Apple says the introduction of AirTag included industry first proactive features that discourage unwanted tracking.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Even in her own home, Nia Conner-Cato, 19, does not feel safe.

"I'm locking all my doors, my windows, everything now," she said. "Because I'm scared!"

She said her anxiety mounted last week when a message popped up on her iPhone after she got gas in Citrus Heights. 

It read: "Your current location can be seen by the owner of this item"

Nia Conner-Cato said she never was able to figure out what device had connected to hers. 

"I'm just pretty baffled, honestly," she said. "I'm still pretty shaken up over it."

Caleb Kwong, cybersecurity expert with Savant Solutions in Sacramento, said these device safety alerts are becoming more prevalent with the launch of Apple's AirTag early this year. The Bluetooth devices are meant to track down lost items, but he says, they have potential to be misused.

"With a bad actor, they can actually track you and figure out where you live or where you work, and your schedule. So it's scary to think about what can be done with that information," Kwong said. 

Across the country, some women have reported finding AirTags in or on their vehicles.

Apple says the item safety alerts are industry-leading proactive features to discourage unwanted tracking and that they constantly update safety features. When an AirTag is separated from its owner for a period of time, for example, it will play a sound in a randomized time window of 8 to 24 hours. Initially, it was three days. 

Kwong says there's room for more privacy and safety measures when it comes to AirTags and other Bluetooth tracking devices, but he believes there's slim chances that they're being used to stalk people.

"So my concern for people abusing that is, unless you have a stalker out there, my concern would be a lot less," Kwong said. 

Kwong said it’s more likely an iPhone would alert a user to a nearby misplaced item.

However, that feeling of your location being shared with an unknown device is unsettling. So, what should you do to protect yourself?

Both Kwong and Apple recommend turning on item safety alerts.

That can be found in the "FIND MY" app on iPhone, under the "Me" tab. According to CNET, Apple is developing a similar app for Andorid users. 

If you come across an unknown AirTag, Apple says you can tap your iPhone or NFC-capable device to it for instructions on how to disable it.

For more information on what to do if you find an AirTag or get an alert that an AirTag is with you, click HERE.

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