Updated as of Jan. 14, 2021 at 1:27 p.m. to include additional information from Elon University Chief of Campus Police Joe LeMire.
An Elon University student reported being tracked by an unknown individual via Apple AirTag to the town of Elon police on Jan. 10, according to the town of Elon Assistant Chief of Police J.T. Turney.
According to a Burlington police report, the student called at 1:16 a.m. on Jan. 11, and reported they received a notification that an Apple AirTag was following their location. The student was advised to send screenshots of the notification to Burlington police. They left their car with the Elon Police Department for further investigation.
Released in April 2021, the Apple AirTag is a device that can be used to track personal items, vehicles and people and is about the size of a quarter. The devices can be placed anywhere, such as in purses, bags or underneath a vehicle.
According to Chief of Campus Police Joe LeMire, no other instances of tracking have been reported on or near Elon’s campus.
“All members of the community should be aware of who has access to their belongings and regularly check their personal devices to ensure their location and activity are not being shared without their consent or knowledge,” LeMire said in a statement to Elon News Network.
Apple users will receive a notification on their device advising them that they are being tracked by an AirTag via the “Find My” application that is pre-installed on Apple devices. Once the notification is sent, the user can find out how long they have been tracked since the AirTag was placed.
However, if you do not use an Apple phone, you will not receive notifications. Instead, the AirTag itself will begin to make a chirping sound between eight and 24 hours after the tracker is separated from the registered person.
Android users can download the “Tracker Detect” application, but it must be actively open and in use in order to detect the presence of AirTags — only making it a viable resource if you suspect you are being followed. The use of other types of small tracking devices, such as Tiles, is also possible and may be much harder to detect.
LeMire said the university did not issue an “Elon E-Alert” because the incident occurred off campus and was quickly resolved by town of Elon police. Under the Clery Act, a consumer protection law that provides transparency around campus crime policy and statistics, universities are required to report certain crimes that occur on campus. However because the incident occured off campus, LeMire said Elon chose not to issue an alert.
“This incident occurred off campus and was quickly reported to the Town of Elon Police,” LeMire wrote. “It was determined there was no ongoing threat to the campus community and therefore a campus-wide warning was not necessary.”
In a statement, Chief of Police Kelly Blackwelder said reports of similar situations have been reported in larger cities. If a user finds they are being tracked, Blackwelder specified not to touch or remove the device — but to call local law enforcement immediately.
According to Apple, reports of people being unknowingly tracked via AirTag have surfaced across the country — the earliest being in December of 2021 and continuing through January of 2022.
Namely occurring in larger cities such as Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago, similar incidents have also been reported in areas like Davenport, Iowa, Ontario, Canada and even in the Raleigh, Wake Forest area. All locations have issued warnings similar to the town of Elon’s.