Apple And Google Collaborate On First-Of-Its-Kind Unwanted Tracking Tech

Apple and Google, two unlikely partners, jointly submitted a proposal for industry specification to help combat the misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices for unwanted tracking.

The first-of-its-kind specification make Bluetooth location-tracking devices compatible with unauthorized tracking detection, providing alerts across Apple’s iOS operating system and Google’s Android platform.

“Bluetooth trackers have created tremendous user benefits, but they also bring the potential of unwanted tracking, which requires industrywide action to solve,” stated Dave Burke, Google’s vice president of engineering for Android.

The partnership aims to help combat the misuse of Bluetooth tracking devices, he said.

Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee support the draft specification detailing best practices and instructions for manufacturers wanting to build these capabilities into their products.

Apple launched AirTag and built a service it calls Find My network to discourage unwanted tracking and give users the peace of mind knowing where to find their most important items.

“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,” stated Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of Sensing and Connectivity.

There are two sides to tracking. On Monday, Fox 5 New York reported that New York City Mayor Adams would ask the police department to hand out 500 free Apple AirTags to combat rising car thefts, suggesting car owners. The NYPD reported Grand larceny auto rose 13% citywide compared to a year ago, with nearly 4,500 vehicles reported stolen. But the technology also has been used for nefarious reasons. In January, a NYPD officer found an Apple AirTag under the hood of a work car.

Apple and Google also incorporated feedback from device manufacturers, various safety and advocacy groups, and others.

Erica Olsen, the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s senior director of its Safety Net Project, believes that the new standards will minimize opportunities for abuse of this technology and decrease the burden on survivors in detecting unwanted trackers.

The specification has been submitted as an Internet-Draft via the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a standards development organization. Review and comments are being accepted during 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.

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