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Purse Poppers: The nightmare dressed up like a day dream (Miley Cyrus)

So you think you like those little purse poppers or AirTags to keep track of all your stuff? Think again. These devices have been billed as a cheap and easy way to track everything. But what you can keep track of, so can anyone else– not just ordinary stalkers or thieves either. Your ex or soon to be ex may use these as well to keep track of your every movement. Plus they are so small, they can be planted almost anywhere. Of course, this is just an old problem dressed up in fancy tech.

Apple issued a statement last week saying they were working with law enforcement on all requests and is planning to roll out additional software updates to help iPhone users become more aware of and locate unknown AirTags that were following them.

The stalker first has to plant these somewhere, e.g. in your purse, your car, or where you live. AirTags do not have a built-in GPS system and instead piggyback off the location data of nearby Apple devices by emitting a continuous Bluetooth signal, which is then viewable by the tag’s owner.

I have an iPhone. How do I know if an AirTag is following me?

For Apple iPhone users, there are some safeguards in place, but for others, the options are more limited. iPhone users will receive a notification if an AirTag is separated from its owner and is moving with them over time — if you have an iPhone 6 or later which is running on iOS 14.5 or later, and you have the correct settings on.

Android users cannot receive these notifications automatically, but you can get an application from Apple called Tracker Detect. This will allow you to scan for an unknown AirTag nearby. However, Tracker Detect currently only operates when the app is open.

Anyone who is alerted to the presence of an unknown AirTag, either through Apple’s notification system or by using Tracker Detect, can trigger an audible chime to help them locate the device. AirTags will also randomly play this chime automatically when separated from the original owner. A notification does not necessarily mean that you are being followed. The device and the item it is attached to may genuinely be lost

An AirTag can be deactivated by removing the battery. Doing so not only stops it from updating its current location but also will alert you. However, some law enforcement agencies have pointed out that removing the AirTag’s battery could potentially contaminate it as evidence.

There are no hard-and-fast rules on what you should do if you suspect you are being tracked according to Jennifer Landhuis, the Director of the Stalking Prevention Awareness and Resource Center. But here are some suggestions:

  • Call Law Enforcement, but be careful as to how you do this. Apple recommends people contact local law enforcement, but Landhuis advises victims to be thoughtful about how to do so in the safest way possible.  According to Landhuis: “If the offender is monitoring the victim’s actions and sees that the AirTag has now gone to the police station, that can escalate the situation and put a victim more in danger.”  She suggests that finding a public place where you can safely contact police by phone and have an officer meet you might be a safer alternative.
  • Take Screenshots.  Landhuis also suggests that people document the incident by taking screenshots and photos and keeping a log of notes in order to keep track of the details.
  • Report this to your lawyer.
  • Follow your instincts! According to Landhuis, this is the most important thing for someone to do- trust your gut.

We are glad you asked. Please see our blog “Online Security During Divorce Proceedings” which outlines some prevention measures in greater detail. For example, in your iPhone, there is a thing called iPhone Photo “Locations” in your photos. This shows where you took pictures, where you were, etc. You can disable this. Check your settings. There is also something on Apple products called Significant Location Data: it is generally set to let it collect information from your device automatically. You are able to turn that off within your settings, but they do not make it easy to find how to do it. Also, get your own Apple ID for you and your children. If a parent or a spouse has the Apple ID or password of their spouse or child, they have access to almost everything. A parent could actually log in as a child and obtain information that way.

Special thanks to Jennifer Landhuis, the director of the Stalking Prevention Awareness and Resource Center. Contact number: 202-558-0040 and email:

Attribution to Tim Eigo for picking up on this article from NPR. (“AirTags are being used to track people and cars. Here’s what is being done about it”) NPR, February 18, 2022 5:37 PM ET, All Things Considered.

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