You’ve doubtless experienced that sinking feeling when your phone, wallet, keys, or another critical item goes missing. If you wished there were something that could save you from your own absent-mindedness, there’s good news. When you’re carrying around expensive or important items, tracker tags can help make sure they don’t get lost.
But what exactly are tracker tags, and how do they work? Before you start using tracker tags, read on to learn more about them so you can utilize them safely. Here are a few facts about tracker tags and how they can benefit you.
1. They Are Designed for Objects, Not People
Tracker tags such as Apple’s AirTag were created with the purpose of tracking personal items to which they are attached. Unfortunately, some bad actors have used them as a means of tracking people who weren’t aware of it. In response, Apple has implemented several protections for unwitting victims like phone alerts and the ability to find suspicious devices nearby. The company also publicly emphasizes that these tags should not be used for this purpose.
Using the tags to track a person can be considered a violation of that individual’s rights even if they are aware of it. Instead of using tracker tags on children, for example, it’s better to opt for a more mutually respectful option. This can take the form of a cell phone or smartwatch as a GPS tracker for kids. This way, you’ll both be aware of the tracking, and your child will have some authority over the device itself.
2. They Require Your Location to Function
Say that you have lost a piece of luggage and are trying to find it using your phone. To tap into the network the tag is part of, you’ll need to activate your location services as well. This doesn’t mean that anyone who finds your luggage will be able to see where you are. Your location will still be secure; it’s just necessary to pinpoint the tag and its location.
The phone company itself, however, will be able to track your location via the tag itself in case of emergency. In the past, Apple has cooperated with law enforcement to find criminals who were using the tags for nefarious purposes. But as long as you use the tags responsibly, you don’t have to worry about this. Just be aware that even if your exact location is secure as the tag user, you can still be traced.
One secondary convenience of tracker tags is that they generally won’t need charging or replacing for at least a year. Some companies sell products with batteries that last as long as three years — although the tags will need to be repurchased afterward. Depending on the brand, your device will either have years of battery life before this point or a replaceable battery. This makes it incredibly easy to affix the tag to some important item and keep it there for quite some time.
Once that time arrives, though, the tag will usually alert you via the device it’s connected to. You can also see the battery percentage in the app through which you track the tag to keep tabs on it. Luckily, it is easy to find affordable replacement batteries (for the tracker tags that use them) wherever batteries are sold.
4. They Can Alert Unwitting Users
Tracker tags have protection systems in case they are used in a way that is unauthorized or violates privacy laws. Should an Apple AirTag detect that it is being used to track someone who is not the owner, it will alert them. Unfortunately, this only works by default for iPhone users, but Android users can download an official app for this purpose. Likewise, Tile offers a “Scan and Secure” feature on its app that allows anyone to detect whether the company’s tracker tags are hidden nearby.
As mentioned previously, it’s highly recommended that such devices not be used to track other people, including your children. To keep tabs on your kids, use a personal device instead for the sake of freedom, independence, and trust. Doing otherwise can cause a rift between you and your children, and you’ll be using tracker tags fraudulently.
5. They Can Be Disabled
Once a user receives a tracking alert, they can follow the provided instructions to disable and report the rogue tracker. This makes it easy for individuals to ensure their safety and aid law enforcement in locating the source. Because of this, it’s all the more important to keep your personal item trackers attached only to those items. Any out-of-place movement can trigger an alert for someone else — which is undoubtedly a small price to pay for safety.
“Disabling” a tracker tag does not, however, mean that it’s out of commission for good. You can still turn a tracker tag back on. You might use this feature if you accidentally turn off your own, for example. It also allows you to gather more information on an unauthorized user to give to the manufacturer and law enforcement.
The use of tracker tags for criminal purposes is a chilling prospect, but it is by no means a universal phenomenon. These tags are actually designed, and mostly used, in order to prevent theft of belongings and high-value items. While you shouldn’t track a person with one, it’s worth investing in some kind of tracking hardware. That way, if you do lose something, it no longer has to be gone for good.
This content was originally published here.