Google and Apple are collaborating to combat unauthorized location tracking. The problem was raised after Apple released its AirTags item trackers.
Sadly, the item trackers were implanted on the person or property of unwitting individuals who were thereafter tracked by a stranger using an iPhone to monitor them. For instance, a mother and daughter were exiting an empty parking lot at Disney World late one night when the daughter’s phone displayed the alarming notice, “AirTag Found Moving With You.” The daughter came to know that they had spent four hours being followed across the Magic Kingdom. In this situation, Apple’s Tracker Detect app will assist an Android user find an AirTag being used to stalk them.
Apple created the Tracker Detect app, which searches for AirTags that have been separated from their owner, to make sure that instances like this don’t happen to people who use Android phones. From the Play Store, the app can be downloaded and installed.
Apple and Google announced today that they “jointly submitted a proposed industry specification to help combat the misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices for unwanted tracking. The first-of-its-kind specification will allow Bluetooth location-tracking devices to be compatible with unauthorized tracking detection and alerts across iOS and Android platforms.” Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee are a few other manufacturers of item trackers that have endorsed Apple and Google’s draft requirements.
Apple’s vice president of Sensing and Connectivity, Ron Huang, said, “Apple launched AirTag to give users the peace of mind 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.”
Google’s vice president of Engineering for Android also made a statement. “Bluetooth trackers have created tremendous user benefits, but they also bring the potential of unwanted tracking, which requires industrywide 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.”
The draft specs will undergo a three-month review process, according to Apple. After the comment period, Apple and Google will work together to address any concerns. At the end of 2023, they will release a product that implements the specification for unwanted tracking alerts that will be compatible with upcoming releases of Android and iOS. The objective is for Apple and Google to develop a solution that will block criminals from stalking unaware iOS and Android customers via item trackers.
Alexandra Reeve Givens, president and chief executive officer of the Centre for Democracy & Technology stated, “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 standardization process and to further engagement on ways to reduce the risk of Bluetooth location trackers being misused.”