Apple and Google are teaming up to thwart unwanted tracking through AirTags and similar tools.
The two companies behind the iPhone and the software that powers Android phones on Tuesday submitted a proposal to set standards to combat covert surveillance on Bluetooth devices that are built to help people find lost keys, monitor baggage, or locate other objects that have a tendency to be in their possession. misplaced.
The concept also has the backing of Samsung — which sells most Android smartphones worldwide — and makers of tracking products similar to the AirTag, such as Tile, Chipolo, and Pebblebee.
The $30 AirTag has become a popular item since its release in 2021. But the devices have proven easy to misuse, with police reporting stalkers using them to track former love interests and other people who don’t realize they’re being tracked.
“Bluetooth trackers have created enormous benefits for users, but they also present the potential for unwanted tracking, which requires industry-wide action to resolve,” said Dave Burke, Google’s vice president of engineering for Android.
Apple has also recognized the potential for hardware abuse. The company has responded by offering various features, including notifications that warn iPhone owners if a location tag not associated with their device is traveling with them and an app to detect unwanted AirTag tracking for Android devices.
But Apple and Google now want to push forward with new industry standards that they say will help combat surveillance. The companies hope to have a plan in place by the end of this year. The solution, which both companies submitted a draft to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), an organization that sets standards for the Internet, will be distributed through software updates to iPhones and Android phones.
Erica Olsen, senior director of the National Safety Net Project to End Domestic Violence, commended efforts to establish an industry standard that she believes will help protect survivors of abusive relationships and other people who have been targets of stealth technology. “These new standards will reduce the chances that this technology will be misused and reduce the burden on survivors in detecting unwanted trackers,” Olsen said.
The draft is open for comment from interested parties for the next three months, after which the two companies will process and merge feedback.