Apple, Google working together to fight unwanted tracking via Bluetooth location devices

Apple AirTag and iPhone.
An Apple AirTag alongside an iPhone. Photo credit: Newshub.

Apple and Google are collaborating on an initiative to make it harder for stalkers and other criminals to misuse Bluetooth location-tracking devices, the tech giants have announced.

It will mean any company releasing such a device must design it to alert people to potential unwanted tracking, regardless of whether those people are using iOS or Android devices.

Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security and Pebblebee have all "expressed support" for the initiative.

The draft industry specification was submitted today and "offers best practices and instructions for manufacturers, should they choose to build these capabilities into their products", Apple and Google said.

It has been developed with input from safety and advocacy groups, the companies added. 

Since the release of Apple's AirTags in 2021, the misuse of location-tracking devices has generated several news stories and caused concern among privacy experts and law enforcement agencies.

"Apple launched AirTag to give users the peace of mind knowing where to find their most important items," said Ron Huang, Apple's vice president of Sensing and Connectivity.

"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."

Dave Burke, Google's vice president of Engineering for Android, added: "Bluetooth trackers have created tremendous user benefits, but they also bring the potential of unwanted tracking, which requires industry-wide action to solve.

"Android has an unwavering commitment to protecting users, and will continue to develop strong safeguards and collaborate with the industry to help combat the misuse of Bluetooth tracking devices."

The draft industry specification, entitled Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers, was submitted to standards development organisation the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Apple and Google said after a review and feedback period over the next three months, they will "release a production implementation of the specification for unwanted tracking alerts by the end of 2023 that will then be supported in future versions of iOS and Android".