Unexpected allies Apple and Google have joined forces to address Bluetooth tracker stalking, proposing a new industry standard that would enable people to be alerted when an unfamiliar tracker is following them.
The two tech giants announced their collaboration on Tuesday, with the companies submitting a new draft industry specification to standards development organisation Internet Engineering Task Force. If implemented, the new specification would allow Bluetooth location tracking devices to work with unauthorised tracking detection tools across both iOS and Android.
So if a malicious person slipped an AirTag into an Android user’s bag, their target would still be alerted to it though their phone’s unauthorised tracking alerts. Currently, Android users concerned they’re secretly being tracked via AirTag need to download a dedicated Apple app that can detect these devices.
This detection would also work with other Bluetooth trackers and other operating systems. While Google doesn’t currently have a smart tracker, leaks in January indicated one may be in development.
Bluetooth tracker manufacturers such as Samsung, Tile, and Pebblebee have expressed support for Apple and Google’s proposal, according to the statement released by the two companies. The new standards were developed with feedback from such companies, as well as safety and advocacy groups such as The National Network to End Domestic Violence and the Center for Democracy and Technology.
“Bluetooth trackers have created tremendous user benefits but also bring the potential of unwanted tracking, which requires industry-wide action to solve,” said Google’s vice president of Engineering for Android Dave Burke in the statement.
“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,” said Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of Sensing and Connectivity.
The Internet Engineering Task Force will accept feedback on Apple and Google’s submission for three months, with the proposal expected to be implemented by the end of the year.