You must have come across stories about how Apple AirTag or Bluetooth trackers like Tile are used by stalkers to track victims. Bluetooth trackers or even the Apple AirTag are very cheap and easy to use. These trackers can be hidden anywhere and the worst part is that you will not even get to know that you are being tracked. Of course, AirTag has anti-stalking features but it’s just not enough.
Location-tracking devices help users find personal items like their keys, purse, luggage, and more through crowdsourced finding networks. However, they can also be misused for unwanted tracking of individuals.
Now, in a welcome move, Apple and Google have come together and proposed an industry specification to help combat the misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices for unwanted tracking. This will allow Bluetooth location-tracking devices to be compatible with unauthorised tracking detection and alerts across iOS and Android platforms.
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Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee have expressed support for the draft specification, which offers best practices and instructions for manufacturers, should they choose to build these capabilities into their products.
“Apple launched AirTag to give users the peace of mind of knowing where to find their most important items. 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. 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,” said said Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of Sensing and Connectivity.
“Bluetooth trackers have created tremendous user benefits, but they also bring the potential of unwanted tracking, which requires industry wide action to solve. 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,” said Dave Burke, Google’s vice president of Engineering for Android.
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The specification has been submitted as an Internet-Draft via the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a leading standards development organisation. Interested parties are invited and encouraged to review and comment over 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.