Apple and Google Partner to Combat Creepy Tracking Tactics

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple and Google are working together to prevent unwanted tracking from Bluetooth devices designed to help people locate lost keys, track luggage, or locate other things that contribute to this tend to get misplaced or lost.

The two companies behind the iPhone and the software that powers Android phones on Tuesday submitted a proposal to set standards to combat the secret surveillance of Apple’s AirTag trackers and similar devices. The concept is also backed by Samsung, which sells the most Android smartphones in the world, and AirTag-like tracking products like Tile, Chipolo, and Pebblebee.

The $30 AirTag has become a popular item since its release in 2021, helping users pinpoint the locations of a variety of lost and found items. But stalkers have also used AirTags and similar products to track former love interests and others who are unaware they are being followed.

“Bluetooth trackers have created tremendous benefits for users, but they also bring the potential for unwanted tracking that requires industry-wide action to resolve,” said Dave Burke, Google’s vice president of engineering for Android.

Apple and AirTag hope to have a plan to prevent stealth tracking by the end of this year. The solution would be distributed to iPhones and Android phones via software updates.

Erica Olsen, senior director of the National Network’s Safety Net Project to End Domestic Violence, hailed efforts to set an industry standard that she believes will help protect survivors of abusive relationships and others who are targets of stealth -technology goods. “These new standards will minimize opportunities for misuse of this technology and reduce the burden on survivors of detecting unwanted trackers,” Olsen said.

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