Probably doesn’t understand police too well either.

Launched in 2021, Apple’s AirTag gave people a way to keep track of their belongings, by attaching a coin-size tracking device that connected to their smartphone. Although it has the potential to be a life-saver for people who misplace their items or are the victim of theft, many were concerned that this technology could also be used for crimes such as stalking.

Even those people were probably not expecting AirTags to be used to stalk the police themselves, but we can now say it’s happened at least once in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture.

Last May, a detective with the Aichi Prefectural Police was about to get into his unmarked car when he noticed something attached to the muffler. It was a black plastic box, and inside was an AirTag. Officers were put on alert for other tags and instructed to check their vehicles thoroughly before taking them out. However, that still leaves the mystery of who planted to device in the first place.

▼ A new report on the attempted tracking with some artsy shots of AirTags

The motive of wanting to know the police’s location at any given time narrows down the list of suspects to pretty much every criminal in the area, but also doesn’t rule out someone just doing it for kicks. The car was in the visitor parking lot when the AirTag was found, making it accessible to anyone, and the way it was planted seemed very amateurish according to some sources in the police.

Nevertheless, the authorities are taking this incident seriously and working under the assumption that it could have been the work of an organized crime group. Readers of the news, meanwhile, suspect that this act of mischief could have easily backfired on whoever did it in any number of ways.

“Apple is strict about privacy but do provide information about AirTags used in crimes, so expect more news soon.”
“They make way cheaper surveillance tech than AirTags.”
“I use two AirTags on my car, but put them in places that’s hard to find. You need them when you drive a Land Cruiser.”
“Those things start to beep after a few hours if they’re out of range, so it wouldn’t have worked for long.”
“I used AirTags and it’s crazy how accurate they are.”
“Even if the Apple ID can’t be traced, those things are hard to buy in cash, so it’s probably easy to find the purchase history.”
“It looks like the tracker is about to become the tracked.”
“It wasn’t going to last very long on a muffler anyway.”

That last comment pointed out the most fatal flaw in this scheme. According to the police, the AirTag was attached to the car’s muffler, which while driving can easily heat up to hundreds of degrees. Although AirTags are durable, they can only operate in conditions up to 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit), which means one would be toast after only a moderate amount of driving.

So, clearly this person’s attempt to get the jump on the police wasn’t terribly well thought out. Given the perpetrator’s general ineptness at this, they’re probably not so great at covering their tracks either. Combine that with Japanese police forces’ famous determination to catch even people who stole single grapes and toy money, and they might be cracking this case very soon.

Source: Asahi Shimbun, YouTube/FNNプライムオンライン, Apple
Top image: Pakutaso
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