What you need to know
- Apple and Google have announced a new partnership that aims to address unwanted location tracking.
- The companies have released a draft specification on best practices for companies developing location trackers.
- Apple's AirTag and other location trackers have been criticized for allowing users to stalk and harass others.
Location trackers are incredibly useful for people prone to losing their items. However, they can also pose privacy risks as they can be used to stalk other people who unknowingly have a tracker hidden on their person. This became a bigger problem with the introduction of the AirTag, and both Apple and Google are working together to address the problem.
Apple announced on Tuesday that the two companies have come together to draft a specification to provide best practices for companies making location trackers. This would allow both iOS and Android phones to detect and alert users of unwanted trackers in their vicinity.
"Bluetooth trackers have created tremendous user benefits, but they also bring the potential of unwanted tracking, which requires industrywide action to solve," says Dave Burke, Google's vice president of Engineering for Android.
In fact, companies such as Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee have "expressed support" for the draft, which includes feedback from manufacturers and safety advocacy groups. Apple and Google plan to review comments and feedback collected over the next few months, with plans to have the specification ready by the end of 2023. It will then be implemented in future versions of Android and iOS.
Unwanted tracking has been a problem before AirTags came into the picture, but the category exploded in popularity with the launch of Apple's tracker, which only highlighted the problem with location trackers. Samsung also launched its own tracker, and Google has been rumored to have one in the works. Steps have been made to help users avoid unwanted tracking, including a dedicated AirTag app for Android.
"A key element to reducing misuse is a universal, OS-level solution that is able to detect trackers made by different companies on the variety of smartphones that people use every day," says Alexandra Reeve Givens, president and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology, "We commend Apple and Google for their partnership and dedication to developing a uniform solution to improve detectability."
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Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.