Crackdown! Apple and Google to jointly combat unwanted tracking of users by Bluetooth devices | Tech News

Crackdown! Apple and Google to jointly combat unwanted tracking of users by Bluetooth devices

Apple and Google have jointly submitted a proposed draft industry specification that seeks to alert users in the event of suspected unwanted tracking across iOS and Android devices.

| Updated on: May 02 2023, 19:45 IST
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Use location tracking devices like AirTags frequently? Apple and Google set to lead charge to combat misuse of these devices with a new specification. (Unsplash)

In a world full of gadgets, yes, every home and office is cluttered by them, location-tracking devices come in handy to help users find personal items like their keys, purse, luggage, and more through crowdsourced finding networks. Shockingly, location-tracking devices can also be misused for unwanted tracking of individuals.

To combat this big threat that users face daily, Apple and Google have come together and jointly submitted a proposed industry specification that will help combat the misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices for unwanted tracking.

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"We built AirTag and the Find My network with a set of proactive features to discourage unwanted tracking. 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 Ron Huang, Apple's vice president of Sensing and Connectivity.

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This will be the first-of-its-kind specification that will not only detect if people are being tracked without their consent, but also issue alerts to iOS and Android users.

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

“Today's release of a draft specification is a welcome step to confront harmful misuses of Bluetooth location trackers,” said Alexandra Reeve Givens, the Center for Democracy & Technology's president and CEO.

A key element to reducing misuse is a universal, OS-level solution that is able to detect trackers made by different companies on the variety of smartphones that people use every day. We commend Apple and Google for their partnership and dedication to developing a uniform solution to improve detectability. We look forward to the specification moving through the standardisation process and to further engagement on ways to reduce the risk of Bluetooth location trackers being misused,” Givens added.

Next Step

The specification has been submitted as an Internet-Draft via the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). 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.

How does the Apple AirTag work?

The AirTag is a small, circular tracking device that can be attached to items such as keys, bags, and even vehicles. It uses Apple's Find My network to provide the location of the item, making it easier to locate it when it's lost or stolen. It uses a combination of Bluetooth and crowdsourced data to provide the location of the item.

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First Published Date: 02 May, 19:44 IST