Apple and Google are joining forces to combat the growing concern of unwanted tracking. The ability to track peopsle through devices like AirTags has raised concerns about domestic abuse, leading the tech giants to submit a draft of a technical standard to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IEFT) to address this issue. The proposed industry specification will enable Bluetooth location-tracking devices to detect and alert users if an unknown tracker device is tracking them.
The collaboration is a significant step forward in protecting people from the misuse of Bluetooth tracking devices and marks a critical moment in the industry's drive towards universal standards. Google is also set to launch its own version of Apple's Find My Network, with the "Finder network" expected to make finding lost or stolen Android phones even easier.
The Proposed Industry Specification
The specification will enable Bluetooth location-tracking devices to be compatible with unauthorized tracking detection and alerts across iOS and Android platforms. Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee have expressed support for the draft specification, which offers best practices and instructions for manufacturers to build these capabilities into their products.
The first-of-its-kind specification builds upon the AirTag protections and is a critical step forward to help combat unwanted tracking across iOS and Android. Feedback from device manufacturers and various safety and advocacy groups has been integrated into the development of the specification.
Advocating for Universal Standards
The National Network to End Domestic Violence has been advocating for universal standards to protect survivors from the misuse of Bluetooth tracking devices. The Center for Democracy & Technology is focusing on ways to make Bluetooth location trackers more detectable and reduce the likelihood that they will be used to track people.
Google's vice president of engineering for Android, Dave Burke, recognizes the potential for unwanted tracking and supports industrywide action. Apple has introduced features such as notifications for iPhone owners and an app to detect unwanted AirTag tracking for Android devices.
The new standard will minimize opportunities for abuse of this technology and decrease the burden on survivors in detecting unwanted trackers.
Google's Find My Network
Google has been working on its own version of Apple's Find My Network since at least 2021. All signs point to the impending launch of the "Finder network," which should make finding lost or stolen Android phones easier.
Many existing third-party Bluetooth trackers will reportedly benefit from it as well. Chipolo, eufy, and Pebblebee are working to bring Find Network support to their existing tracking tags.
Google's Find My network will also take advantage of Ultra Wideband connectivity on phones like the Google Pixel 7 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra to offer more precise indoor tracking. Once the Finder Network goes live, all compatible devices and trackers should appear in the Find My Device app for easy tracking.
The collaboration between Apple and Google to combat unwanted tracking is a crucial step forward in protecting individuals from the misuse of Bluetooth tracking devices. The proposed industry specification offers best practices and instructions for manufacturers to build these capabilities into their products and has garnered support from various safety and advocacy groups. With the aim of releasing a production implementation of the specification by the end of 2023, we may soon see AirTags or similar devices with added safety measures.
The launch of Google's Find My Network will also make finding lost or stolen Android phones easier and provide more precise indoor tracking. Together, these initiatives demonstrate a commitment to protecting individuals from unwanted tracking and advancing technology for the greater good.