May 3, 2023
Apple and Google have released a joint statement announcing their collaboration to make location-tracking devices safer.
Bluetooth-connected device tracking can be useful when locating personal belongings such as keys or wallets, however, concerns over their use for tracking individuals have increased in recent years.
The latest announcement seeks to meet this issue, with a first-of-its-kind specification that integrates Bluetooth location-tracking devices with an alert if unauthorized tracking is detected.
So far, providers including Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security and Pebblebee have expressed support for the draft specification.
“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.”
“Bluetooth trackers have created tremendous user benefits, but they also bring the potential of unwanted tracking, which requires industry wide action to solve,” said 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.”
The companies have also sought advice from safety and advocacy groups – such as domestic violence groups – in drafting the specification.
“The National Network to End Domestic Violence has been advocating for universal standards to protect survivors — and all people — from the misuse of Bluetooth tracking devices,” said Erica Olsen, the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s senior director of its Safety Net Project. “This collaboration and the resulting standards are a significant step forward…[they] 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. The companies say they encourage other interested parties to review and comment on the draft over the next three months. Following this period, Apple and Google will review any feedback and release a production implementation of the specification by the end of 2023.
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