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Apple and Google Unite Against Bluetooth Tracking Misuse

ByHuey Yee Ong

May 14, 2024
Apple and Google Unite Against Bluetooth Tracking Misuse

Apple and Google Unite Against Bluetooth Tracking Misuse

Apple and Google have jointly developed a new standard to alert users about potential unwanted tracking through Bluetooth devices. This collaboration introduces an alert system that will notify iPhone and Android users when an unknown Bluetooth device, such as a tracker, might be tracking them.

This system is part of a broader initiative called “Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers,” which both companies are now implementing into their respective operating systems.

The implementation begins with Apple’s iOS 17.5 update and extends to Android devices running version 6.0 and higher. Users of these devices will receive an alert titled “[Item] Found Moving With You” whenever an unknown Bluetooth device is detected moving with them. This feature aims to increase user awareness and control over potentially unauthorized tracking activities, which have been a growing concern with the popularity of Bluetooth trackers like Apple’s AirTags.

These trackers were originally designed to help locate personal items such as keys, wallets, or cars by using Bluetooth signals that could be detected by a network of devices within the vicinity. However, the technology quickly saw misuse. Individuals began using these trackers for more nefarious purposes, including stalking, by attaching them to people’s belongings without their knowledge.

To counteract this misuse, Apple first introduced a “Tracker Detect” app for Android in 2021, allowing non-Apple users to discover undetected AirTags. However, this standalone application was only a preliminary step compared to the more integrated solution announced.

Now, the detection and alert system is embedded directly into the operating systems of the devices, enhancing protection across device ecosystems irrespective of the manufacturer.

The initiative has garnered support from other Bluetooth tag companies such as Chipolo, eufy, Jio, Motorola, and Pebblebee, who have committed to making their future products compatible with the new standard. This ensures a broader industry adoption and standardization, extending protective measures across various devices and brands.

Furthermore, both Apple and Google have expressed their commitment to ongoing collaboration with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) through the Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers working group. This collaboration aims to refine and officially standardize these protective technologies, thereby setting a precedent for future developments in device security and user privacy.

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Featured Image courtesy of Wachiwit/Getty Images

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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