Apple and Google have announced a partnership to tackle the issue of unwanted tracking through the likes of AirTags and Tile devices. The companies have proposed industry standards "to help combat the misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices for unwanted tracking."
The proposal has received backing from Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, Anker's Eufy brand and Pebblebee, as well as a number of safety and advocacy groups. The draft specification includes best practices and instructions for Bluetooth tracker manufacturers on how to implement “unauthorized tracking detection and alerts” for iOS and Android.
Apple and Google submitted the draft specification to the Internet Engineering Task Force, a notable standards development organization. Over the next three months, interested parties will have a chance to review the documentation and weigh in on it. Apple and Google will address feedback from the comment period, then work together to develop a production version of the specification by the end of the year. Future versions of iOS and Android will support the tech.
“Bluetooth trackers have created tremendous user benefits, but they also bring the potential of unwanted tracking, which requires industrywide action to solve,” Dave Burke, Google’s vice president of engineering for Android, said in a press release. “Android has an unwavering commitment to protecting users, and will continue to develop strong safeguards and collaborate with the industry to help combat the misuse of Bluetooth tracking devices.”
“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," Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of sensing and connectivity, said. "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.”
There have been numerous cases of Bluetooth trackers being used to stalk people over the last few years, as bad actors have planted such devices on unsuspecting victims. It's not only people that can be unwillingly tracked by Bluetooth devices. According to reports, thieves have used them to steal high-end cars.
Since it debuted its AirTags in 2021, Apple has rolled out some anti-stalking features. For instance, it has updated the devices so they emit as loud a noise as possible at some point after they're separated from their owners. An Android app can also detect AirTags and other Find My-compatible trackers that may have been planted on someone.
It was reported last year that Google was exploring the idea of OS-level Bluetooth tracker detection, which now seems very likely to happen in the coming months. The company plans to reveal more details about its efforts to combat unwanted tracking at I/O next week. Google is also said to be working on its own Bluetooth tracker, which it may reveal at I/O.