The US Drug Enforcement Agency used AirTag to spy on drug dealers

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency used AirTag last year to track illegal drug manufacturing equipment shipped from China to the U.S., according to information from a search warrant issued by shared Forbes edition.

In May 2022, border guards intercepted two parcels from China containing a tablet press and dyes. They suspected that the equipment was being sent to a drug dealer and notified the DEA. Department officials decided to place an AirTag inside the package to track its movement, which is apparently the first time the device has been used in this way.

The search warrant does not detail why the DEA chose to use the AirTag instead of another type of GPS tracker, but it does mention that “accurate location information” allowed investigators to “obtain evidence of where the drugs and/or proceeds from the sale of illicit substances, where dealers obtain materials for manufacture, and where they distribute them.

A retired detective who spoke to Forbes suggested that the Department may have used the AirTag because the device provides more reliable communications than other trackers or because of past failures with the police’s GPS devices.

AirTags have built-in tracking protection features that may prevent them from being used for this kind of surveillance. They are designed to beep when the owner is not present and can also be detected using the “Locator» on iPhone or «Tracker detector» for Android.

The recipient of the package was ultimately not charged in federal court, but was prosecuted by the State of Massachusetts, where the package was delivered.

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