Apple and Google team up to fight stalking

Tuesday, Apple and Google jointly submitted a proposed industry specification aimed at combatting the misuse of AirTags and other Bluetooth location-tracking devices for unwanted tracking including stalking, harassment, and theft.

The specification requires creators of Bluetooth tracking devices to implement “unauthorized tracking detection and alerts” across Android and iOS devices. 

This means that both iOS and Android users will be alerted if a tracker that is separated from its owner is travelling with the user. They will also receive instructions on how to find the tracker and disable it.

Other companies that make similar tracking devices like Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee have expressed support for the draft specification.

“Formalizing a set of best practices for manufacturers will allow for scalable compatibility with unwanted tracking detection technologies on various smartphone platforms and improve privacy and security for individuals,” the document detailing the specification reads.

Last year, following multiple reports of stalking, Apple said it would alert users sooner and make AirTags easier to find by adjusting their tone sequence to make it louder.

“AirTag was designed to help people locate their personal belongings, not to track people or another person’s property, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms any malicious use of our products,” Apple wrote in a press release.

But the reports of misuse kept flooding in, and Apple even got slapped with a class action lawsuit late last year from two women who alleged being victims of Airtag stalking and accused the company of failing to heed warnings from advocacy groups and news reports.

However, Apple now says that feedback from various advocacy groups has been incorporated into drafting this specification.

“We built AirTag and the Find My network with a set of proactive features to discourage unwanted tracking — a first in the industry — and we continue to make improvements to help ensure the technology is being used as intended,” said Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of sensing and connectivity.

Further, Google says it will “continue to develop strong safeguards and collaborate with the industry to help combat the misuse of Bluetooth tracking devices.”

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Ashee Pamma
Ashee Pamma
Ashee is a writer for ITWC. She completed her degree in Communication and Media Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. She hopes to become a columnist after further studies in Journalism. You can email her at [email protected]

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