Apple and Google, two of the world’s most significant tech giants, have joined forces to combat the misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices. These devices, while designed to help users locate personal items like keys or luggage, have been misused in instances of unwanted tracking. The companies have proposed an industry specification aimed at ensuring these devices can detect unauthorized tracking and alert users across both iOS and Android platforms. The draft specification, which includes best practices and guidelines for manufacturers, has received support from Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee.
“Apple launched AirTag to give users the peace of mind knowing where to find their most important items,” said Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of Sensing and Connectivity. “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.” Dave Burke, Google’s vice president of Engineering for Android, echoed the sentiment, stating that the potential for unwanted tracking necessitates industry-wide action.
The development of the specification has been a collaborative process, integrating feedback from device manufacturers and input from safety and advocacy groups. The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) and the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) have both commended the initiative, recognizing the potential of these new standards to minimize opportunities for abuse and decrease the burden on survivors in detecting unwanted trackers.
The draft has been submitted as an Internet-Draft to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a leading standards development organization. Over the next three months, interested parties are invited and encouraged to review and provide feedback. Apple and Google plan to address the feedback and release a production implementation of the specification for unwanted tracking alerts by the end of 2023. This implementation will then be supported in future versions of iOS and Android.