Tech rivals Apple and Google have pledged to stop unwanted tracking through devices like AirTags. The pair have jointly submitted a proposed industry specification to ensure Bluetooth location tracking devices are compatible with unauthorized tracking detection and alerts on iOS and Android platforms.
The spec is already getting support from others: Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security and Pebblebee are confirmed to be on board, according to a press release.
The Apple-Google-led specification provides best practices and guidance for manufacturers choosing to build tracking capabilities into their products.
The problem with AirTags
Apple’s AirTags are super useful, but many people have raised concerns about the devices being used for stalking. The devices are fairly easy to slip into someone’s bag or place in a vehicle – and they’re small, so hard to pack.
The Washington Post recently wrote a report that found that AirTags can provide a stalker with accurate alerts detailing their victim’s location.
Apple is aware of the issue and has introduced technology that helps detect if an AirTag is traveling with you. Last year, Apple gave AirTags a major anti-stalking upgrade for anyone using iOS 16.2. The move came via Apple’s Firmware Update 2.0.24, which enables a Precision Finding feature to “locate an unknown AirTag” if it detects one moving with you.
A unified approach
A unified approach across all major players is “vital” when tracking devices are so easy to exploit, said Jake Moore, global cybersecurity advisor at ESET. “This next phase will make AirTags safer for everyone to use with confidence.”
Moore says it took Apple “far too long to respond to the first reports of AirTags being misused for illicit purposes” and points out that the iPhone maker needed help from Google to help Android use AirTags more securely. phones could be detected and tablets.
Bluetooth trackers have created “huge user benefits,” but they also carry the potential of unwanted tracking, which requires industry-wide action to fix, said Dave Burke, Google’s vice president of engineering for Android, in a press release.
Apple and Google have received support from various security and advocacy groups that the pair say will be integrated into the specification’s development.
The specification has been submitted as an Internet Draft through the standards-developing organization, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Apple and Google have invited interested parties to review and comment over the next three months.
After this, Apple and Google will work together to handle feedback. The pair plans a production deployment of the unwanted tracking alerts specification by the end of 2023, which will be supported in future versions of iOS and Android.