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Apple and Google have announced their collaboration on a proposed industry specification aimed at combatting safety risks associated with Bluetooth-enabled tracking devices such as Apple’s AirTag. The proposed specification includes the implementation of unauthorized tracking detection and alerts across Android and iOS devices, making it possible for users to be alerted if an unknown Bluetooth tracker is traveling with them, no matter what kind of phone they have.
The specification also lists several best practices for creators of Bluetooth tracking devices to prevent the misuse of location trackers that could put users at risk for stalking, harassment, and theft. The unwanted tracking detection is expected to detect and alert individuals when a tracker that’s separated from its owner is traveling with them and provide instructions on how to find and disable the device.
Tile, Chipolo, Eufy Security, Samsung, and Pebblebee, who make similar tracking devices, have joined Apple and Google in supporting the proposed standard.
The AirTag’s release in 2021 raised concerns about the device’s safety, prompting privacy advocates to call for safety measures. Tracking devices had been a problem for years prior to AirTag’s release, according to Erica Olsen of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Apple responded by enhancing the unknown AirTag alerts on the iPhone and creating an app that scans for unwanted trackers on Android. Today’s statement by Olsen shows gratitude for the new standards, which will minimize the risk of the misuse of this technology, decrease the burden on survivors in detecting unwanted trackers, and address unwanted tracking and misuse.
Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of sensing and connectivity, explained that they built AirTag and the Find My network with a set of proactive features to discourage unwanted tracking, making it a first in the industry. The collaboration with Google resulted in a critical step forward in helping combat unwanted tracking across iOS and Android. He expressed his belief that this new industry specification builds upon the AirTag protections and will help ensure that the technology is being used as intended.