Apple, Google join forces on industry spec for unwanted Bluetooth trackers

The new specification would enable unauthorized tracking alerts across iOS and Android


Much ado has been made about Bluetooth-powered trackers and how they facilitate stalking and unwanted tracking. Now, Google and Apple are teaming up to combat the problem.

Per a press release from Apple, the two companies announced that they jointly submitted a proposed industry specification “to help combat the misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices for unwanted tracking.” Moreover, Apple and Google said that several companies that make trackers, including Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, Eufy Security and Pebblebee, have expressed support for the standard.

According to the release, the specification will allow Bluetooth-based location tracking devices to work with unauthorized tracking detection and alerts on both Android and iOS. Assuming, of course, that companies decide to add these capabilities to their products.

Apple and Google said that they incorporated feedback from device manufacturers and from safety and advocacy groups into the development of the specification.

Unfortunately, that’s about all we’ve got to go on so far. It’ll be interesting to see how the specification develops and whether it sees widespread adoption.

Bluetooth trackers have always carried the possibility of misuse, but Apple’s AirTag launch propelled the concern into the mainstream. After the AirTag, tons of stories emerged about stalkers sneaking AirTags into victims’ pockets or bags to follow them or thieves using AirTags to track vehicles they wanted to steal. Of course, for all the bad press, there were plenty of stories praising AirTag and similar trackers for helping to catch thieves too.

Regardless, Apple and other tracking companies have been trying to prevent the misuse of Bluetooth trackers with mixed success. For example, Apple added a whole system to AirTags and Find My to warn people if an unwanted tracker was following them. Apple even released an Android app so people who don’t use its products could scan for AirTags. Perhaps most shocking was Tile’s plan to fine people $1 million if they got caught using the company’s trackers to commit crimes.

Whatever happens with the new specification, my hope is it kills the need for people to install several apps just to monitor different brands of trackers. If the unwanted tracker detection just works automatically on your phone, regardless of manufacturer and tracker brand, it would go a long way to reducing some of the issues around Bluetooth trackers (or at least offer some peace of mind).

Source: Apple