If you lose your Apple device or an object tagged with an AirTag, you can utilize a network of hundreds of millions of Apple devices with Bluetooth to help get it back. It’s called the “Find My network,” and here’s how it works.
What Is the Find My Network?
Apple’s Find My network is a crowdsourced method of locating your lost iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, AirPods, Apple Watch, or Mac. You can also use it to locate lost items that have AirTags attached to them. It’s available as a free service to Apple device owners.
The Find My network utilizes Bluetooth sensors on hundreds of millions of Apple products to report the location of missing Apple devices around them. When an Apple device on the network detects a missing Apple device nearby, it reports the lost item’s approximate location back to the device’s owner through the internet.
Are There Any Privacy Issues with the Find My Network?
You might think that with a network of almost a billion Apple devices reporting back on the location of lost items, there might be some privacy issues with the Find My network. However, Apple has taken privacy into account when designing this network.
Apple has worked to avoid privacy issues whenever possible, engineering a system that utilizes end-to-end encryption while also transmitting anonymized data to keep your device’s location known only to you while also keeping your identity and location private when using a device that’s active in the Find My network. According to Apple, neither it nor third parties can access the location of your devices on the Find My network. Only the person seeking the lost device can see the item’s location.
Apple’s AirTags do pose more of a privacy risk, but Apple has taken steps to make it harder for people to use AirTags to track people without their knowledge. Time will tell if those measures are sufficient.
How Do I Use the Find My Network?
For you to use the Find My network, your lost item or AirTag must first have “Find My” enabled (and be part of the Find My network), and also be registered to your Apple ID. To locate the item, open the Find My app on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac. (It’s also possible to find a lost iPhone on Android.) Choose the devices tab, tap the device’s name, and you’ll see its location on a map. If you can’t see it, you can mark the item as lost and hope that someone finds it later and returns it to you.
Can I Opt out of the Find My Network?
Even though the Find My network doesn’t represent a privacy issue for most people (unless you work in a sensitive, high-security field, we recommend that you keep it enabled), you can still turn it off (and opt out) if you’d like.
To do so on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, open Settings and navigate to Apple ID > Find My > Find My iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch and tap turn the “Find My Network” switch off.
To opt out of Find My network on a Mac, open System Preferences and navigate to Apple ID > iCloud, and then click the “Options” button beside “Find My Mac.” In the window that pops up, click the “Turn Off” button beside “Find My Network.”
Keep in mind that if you turn off the Find My network, not only will your device’s Bluetooth sensors stop assisting others in locating lost devices, but also, you won’t be able to take advantage of its benefits if you lose your device. Stay safe out there!