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Apple users report 'phantom' AirTag stalking alerts, likely because of a bug


Some Apple users are seeing what appear to be phantom AirTag anti-stalking alerts that are likely the result of a bug in the company's safety mechanisms, according to a new report.

The bug-related alerts have a few distinguishing characters from actual reports of stalking, including the fact that their pathway on a map appear erratic and non-sensible, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

"The maps on phantom AirTag alerts share a similar pattern: straight red lines radiating out from the user's location," the publication noted. "If an AirTag were in motion (perhaps flying?) along these paths, it would be crossing in the middle of city streets, passing through construction zones, even penetrating walls."

It isn't clear how widespread the bug is, but The Wall Street Journal points out that reports have surfaced on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and other platforms.

One person who received a phantom AirTag alert at his home said the notification was frightening, but added that the AirTag's movement on the map "looked super weird." He wasn't able to find any maliciously placed AirTags near his house.

When a 24-year-old nonprofit worker received a phantom AirTag alert on her iPhone, she searched her belongings and found none. When she attempted to get the AirTag to play a sound, the Find My app showed a notification saying "AirTag Not Reachable."

It's a similar situation to one faced by a family visiting Disney World earlier in May. While they received an AirTag anti-stalking alert, they weren't able to find any trackers on their persons or in their belongings.

An Apple spokesperson said the alerts may have resulted from an iPhone receiving Wi-Fi signals that temporarily confused its location services. Alternatively, the spokesperson added that AirTags owned by other nearby people in densely populated areas could result in false alarms — and it doesn't get much denser than Disney World.

There are certainly real cases of AirTag-facilitated stalking, which is why Apple has deployed new mechanisms meant to bolster safety and security. The company is also working on other safeguards that will debut down the road.