Apple and Google collaborate on unwanted Tracking Alerts for Mobile Devices

This initiative involves the creation of an industry standard - Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers - designed to alert users across both iOS and Android devices if an unknown Bluetooth tracking device is following them.

Apple and Google
Apple and Google

Apple and Google this month announced a collaborative effort to improve user safety regarding unwanted location tracking. This initiative involves the creation of an industry standard - Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers - designed to alert users across both iOS and Android devices if an unknown Bluetooth tracking device is following them.

Unwanted tracking devices, in this context, refer to Bluetooth trackers originally intended to help locate lost belongings. These devices, such as Apple AirTags or other Find My network accessories, can be misused to track individuals without their knowledge or consent.

The newly developed system leverages the Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers specification. With this functionality now implemented in iOS 17.5 and rolling out on Android devices running version 6.0 or later, users will receive an alert titled [Item] Found Moving With You if an unknown Bluetooth tracking device is detected traveling alongside them for a certain period. This notification functions across platforms, regardless of the operating system the tracking device is paired with.

For iPhone users receiving an [Item] Found Moving With You alert, this signifies the potential presence of an unknown AirTag, Find My accessory, or another compatible Bluetooth tracker moving with them. The tracker could be attached to a borrowed item, but if not, the iPhone offers several actions:

  • Identifying the Tracker: Users can view the tracker's unique identifier to potentially trace its origin.
  • Locating the Tracker: The iPhone can trigger an audible sound from the tracker, aiding in its physical location.
  • Disabling the Tracker: Users can access instructions on how to disable the unwanted tracking functionality.

The initiative reflects a commitment from both Apple and Google to prioritize user privacy. Notably, this collaboration represents the first industry-wide standard for unwanted tracking alerts. Additionally, several Bluetooth tag manufacturers, including Chipolo, eufy, Jio, Motorola, and Pebblebee, have pledged compatibility for future tracking devices.

This cross-platform effort extends beyond immediate implementation. Apple and Google will continue to work with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to develop a formal standard for this technology through the Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers working group.

The introduction of unwanted tracking alerts strengthens user protections against potential location tracking without consent. This collaborative effort between Apple and Google signifies a positive step towards a more secure mobile device ecosystem.

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