AirTags, Big Sur and your privacy and safety

If you’re not already forgetful, your time will come, trust me. For those of us who are well aware of our limitations, or who simply want to track our portable property, Apple’s new AirTags come close to the perfect solution. They’re small, robust, relatively inexpensive at around $/€/£ 25 each, and can be incorporated into keyrings and other precious objects.

AirTags are very simple to activate and use, through the Find My app on an iPhone or iPad. What Apple has played down is how well-supported AirTags are on your Mac running macOS 11.3. Allow me to show you.


Open the Find My app, and select the Items tab to view all your AirTags in their locations.


Open one of your AirTags, and you’re shown its current location, the charge remaining in its battery, and two controls over Lost Mode and whether to notify you when found. Click again on the header and you can see its serial number and firmware version, at the top of its window.

Just as Macs can’t activate and add new AirTags, they can’t remove them either. If you need to set up an AirTag which is already connected with a different Apple ID, Apple describes how to do that with your iPhone or iPad.

AirTags might appear simple, but a great deal of thought and planning has gone into preventing their misuse too. Just as you can track an object of yours with an AirTag attached to it, others might try attaching their AirTag to you, to track your movements. Apple explains the measures AirTags use to prevent their misuse and abuse in this support note.

AirTagged objects are intended to be near to their owner, not someone else. When someone’s AirTag remains close to you for any length of time, your Find My app will notify you, and the AirTag makes a sound when moved to help you find it. If you do find someone else’s AirTag, tap and hold your iPhone to the white side of the AirTag. You should then see a notification which opens a web page providing information about that AirTag. If it has been marked as lost, you should also see contact information for its owner. If the worst comes to the worst and it looks like someone has AirTagged you, then your iPhone can provide instructions as to how it can be disabled. Apple will also work with law enforcement agencies to help ensure your safety, as necessary.

As you’d expect of Apple, AirTags use encryption and privacy protection to prevent other forms of misuse.

I’m grateful to Glenn Fleishman for drawing attention to the last of those support notes.