Apple and Google are working together to fight against people who use tracking devices like AirTags to stalk or track others without their permission. They have come up with a new set of rules (called an “industry specification”) that will help prevent this kind of misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices.
This new set of rules will make it so that Bluetooth location-tracking devices are compatible with both iOS (Apple’s operating system for iPhones) and Android (Google’s operating system for many other smartphones). This means that if someone is trying to use a tracking device to stalk or track someone else without their permission, both iOS and Android devices will be able to detect this and send alerts to the victim.Several other companies, like Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee, have also agreed to follow these new rules and build these anti-stalking capabilities into their own tracking devices.
Bluetooth location-tracking devices help users find personal items like their keys, purse, luggage, and more through crowdsourced finding networks. However, they can also be misused for unwanted tracking of individuals. There have been too many instances of people using Apple AirTags to stalk their ex-partners, friends and family members. In most cases, the AirTag or other tracking devices have been surreptitiously placed in the victim’s bag or car without their knowledge.
“Apple launched AirTag to give users the peace of mind knowing where to find their most important items.We built AirTag and the Find My network with a set of proactive features to discourage unwanted tracking — a first in the industry — and we continue to make improvements to help ensure the technology is being used as intended. This new industry specification builds upon the AirTag protections, and through collaboration with Google results in a critical step forward to help combat unwanted tracking across iOS and Android,” said Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of Sensing and Connectivity.
The specification has been submitted as an Internet-Draft via the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a leading standards development organization. Interested parties are invited and encouraged to review and comment over the next three months. Following the comment period, Apple and Google will partner to address feedback, and will release a production implementation of the specification for unwanted tracking alerts by the end of 2023 that will then be supported in future versions of iOS and Android.
The collaboration between Apple and Google is a critical step forward in protecting users from unwanted tracking and misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices. The specification will provide a set of proactive features to discourage unwanted tracking and improve detectability, offering peace of mind to users who rely on these devices to find their personal belongings.