Apple and Google Aim to Stop Unwanted Tracking by AirTags, Other Devices

Apple and Google are teaming up to help prevent the misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices like Apple’s AirTag. The two companies have submitted a draft set of standards and best practices for the tech industry to the Internet Engineering Task Force to help thwart unwanted tracking through Bluetooth devices, Apple said in a press release Tuesday. 

The specification, which incorporates input from device manufacturers and safety and advocacy groups, makes it possible for people who use iOS or Android devices to be notified when they’re being tracked through a Bluetooth device without their consent. Currently, Apple users are notified on their iPhone when an unwanted AirTag is near them, but this notification doesn’t apply to Android platforms or other brands of tracker. 

“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.

The news comes amid chatter that Google is developing its own tracker, reportedly called the Nest Locator Tag. Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the rumored device. 

While Apple AirTags and other Bluetooth trackers are supposed to solve the age-old problem of finding missing items like keys, phones and wallets, some bad actors have been using the devices to stalk people. It’s possible for someone to slip an AirTag or other tracker into your bag or car without your consent and track your location.

Read more: How to Protect Yourself From Being Tracked With AirTags

“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,” said Alexandra Reeve Givens, president of the Center for Democracy & Technology, in the release. 

Other Bluetooth device companies, like Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, Eufy Security and Pebblebee expressed support for the initiative. 

Apple and Google will address feedback once a comment period ends and release a plan to implement the standards. Apple said it expects features to be ready by the end of 2023, and will be supported in future versions of iOS and Android. 

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