Apple and Google Collaborate to Combat Unwanted Bluetooth Tracker Stalking

Apple and Google Collaborate to Combat Unwanted Bluetooth Tracker Stalking
Apple and Google collaborate to create a new industry standard for detecting and alerting users about unwanted Bluetooth tracker stalking on iOS and Android.

Apple and Google have announced a significant partnership aimed at curbing the misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices, such as Apple’s AirTag and other similar products. This collaboration seeks to develop a new industry standard designed to alert users about potential unwanted tracking across both iOS and Android platforms.

The Need for a New Specification

Bluetooth trackers are useful for locating lost items like keys, wallets, and luggage. However, they have also been misused for malicious purposes, such as stalking individuals without their consent. Incidents of unwanted tracking have prompted the need for a robust solution that can work across different operating systems and device manufacturers.

The Proposed Solution

The new industry specification proposed by Apple and Google aims to provide a standardized way for Bluetooth location-tracking devices to detect and alert users of unauthorized tracking attempts. This specification has been submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) for review and feedback over the next few months. Following the review period, a production implementation is expected by the end of 2023​.

Industry and Advocacy Group Support

The initiative has garnered support from major industry players, including Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, Eufy Security, and Pebblebee. These companies have expressed interest in incorporating the new standards into their products to enhance user safety. Additionally, various advocacy groups, such as the National Network to End Domestic Violence, have praised the move as a significant step toward protecting individuals from the misuse of tracking technology​​.

Technical Details and Implementation

The proposed specification will enable Bluetooth tracking devices to be compatible with unauthorized tracking detection and alerts on both iOS and Android devices. This universal approach will make it easier for users to detect unwanted trackers regardless of the device or platform they are using. The technology will rely on Bluetooth crowd-sourcing, GPS/GNSS location, WiFi location, and cellular location data to identify and alert users of potential tracking​​.

Statements from Apple and Google

Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of Sensing and Connectivity, emphasized the company’s commitment to user safety: “We built AirTag and the Find My network with a set of proactive features to discourage unwanted tracking. This new industry specification builds upon these protections and represents a critical step forward through collaboration with Google to combat unwanted tracking across both iOS and Android”​​.

Dave Burke, Google’s vice president of Engineering for Android, echoed this sentiment, highlighting the importance of industry-wide action: “Bluetooth trackers have created tremendous user benefits but also bring the potential of unwanted tracking. Android has an unwavering commitment to protecting users and will continue to develop strong safeguards and collaborate with the industry to address this issue”​​.

Future Developments

As the draft specification undergoes review, Apple and Google will continue to refine the technology based on feedback from manufacturers and advocacy groups. The final implementation is expected to significantly enhance the safety features of Bluetooth trackers, making it more difficult for bad actors to misuse these devices for tracking individuals without their knowledge.

The partnership between Apple and Google marks a crucial step toward addressing the growing concern of Bluetooth tracker misuse. By developing a universal standard for unauthorized tracking detection and alerts, the tech giants aim to provide users with greater security and peace of mind across multiple platforms.

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