Apple and Google team-up to address unwanted tracking

Companies welcome input from industry participants and advocacy groups on a draft specification to alert users in the event of suspected unwanted tracking

Apple - Google

We have already been talking about location-tracking devices like Apple’s own AirTag. As we have mentioned before, such devices are small and can be very useful for finding personal items such as keys, luggage, purse and more. On the other hand, they could also be easily misused for unwanted tracking of other people.

And now we have the new partnership between the two archrivals, Apple and Google, announcing a proposed industry specification to help combat the misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices for unwanted tracking.

According to the joint press release, 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. Also, said specification offers best practices and instructions for manufacturers, should they choose to build these capabilities into their products.

Among those expressing support for the draft specification are the leaders in this space, including Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee.

“Apple launched AirTag to give users the peace of mind knowing where to find their most important items,” said Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of Sensing and Connectivity. “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.”

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

Aside from incorporating feedback from device manufacturers, input from various safety and advocacy groups has been integrated into developing the specification. Among them are the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) and the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT).

The specification for the new standard has been submitted as an Internet-Draft via the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a leading standards development organization. Interested parties are invited 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.

Isn’t it beautiful when rival companies find a mutual ground for the benefit of their users’ privacy? Love it.