Apple and Google have taken the initiative to address the issue of unwanted tracking by leading an industry-wide effort to develop a specification. The aim is to alert users in case of suspected unwanted tracking, especially related to Bluetooth location-tracking devices. While these devices have proven useful for finding personal items like keys and purses through crowdsourced networks, they can also be misused for tracking individuals without their consent.
In a joint effort, Apple and Google have submitted a proposed industry specification to combat the misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices. This groundbreaking specification will enable compatibility for unauthorized tracking detection and alerts across both iOS and Android platforms. Notably, Samsung, and Ace have expressed their support for this draft specification, which provides best practices and instructions for manufacturers who wish to incorporate these capabilities into their products.
Ron Huang, Apple's vice president of Sensing and Connectivity, emphasized the proactive features of Apple's AirTag and the Find My network, designed to discourage unwanted tracking. Huang noted that this industry specification builds upon the existing AirTag protections and represents a significant step forward in collaboration with Google to combat unwanted tracking across iOS and Android.
Dave Burke, Google's vice president of Engineering for Android, highlighted Android's commitment to user protection and the development of robust safeguards. Burke stated that Android will continue to work closely with the industry to address the misuse of Bluetooth tracking devices and protect users.
The development of the specification has also taken into account feedback from device manufacturers and input from various safety and advocacy groups. Erica Olsen, senior director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence's Safety Net Project, expressed support for the collaboration, stating that the new standards would minimize opportunities for abuse of Bluetooth tracking devices and alleviate the burden on survivors of domestic violence.
Alexandra Reeve Givens, president and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), welcomed the draft specification as a step towards addressing the harmful misuse of Bluetooth location trackers. Givens emphasized the importance of a universal, OS-level solution to detect trackers across different smartphone brands, commending Apple and Google for their dedication to developing such a solution. The CDT looks forward to further engagement on reducing the risk of Bluetooth location trackers being misused.
The specification has been submitted as an Internet-Draft through the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a leading standards development organization. Interested parties are invited to review and provide feedback over the next three months. Apple and Google will collaborate to address the feedback received and plan to release a production implementation of the specification for unwanted tracking alerts by the end of 2023. This implementation will be supported in future versions of iOS and Android.