A PYMNTS Company

Google, Apple Team Up To Help Protect User Data

 |  May 2, 2023

Tech rivals Apple and Google say they’re uniting against a common foe: unwanted tracking.

“Location-tracking devices help users find personal items like their keys, purse, luggage, and more through crowdsourced finding networks,” the companies saidTuesday (May 2). “However, they can also be misused for unwanted tracking of individuals.”

To that end, Google and Apple have together submitted a proposed industry specification to curb the misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices for unwanted monitoring. 

“The first-of-its-kind specification will allow Bluetooth location-tracking devices to be compatible with unauthorized tracking detection and alerts across iOS and Android platforms,” Apple and Google said in a statement shared on the Apple news site. The proposal was submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), an industry standards development organization.

Related: Italy’s Antitrust Watchdog Fines Google, Apple Over Data

The statement adds that a number of other companies — Samsung, eufy Security, and Pebblebee among them — have indicated their support for the proposal, which suggests best practices for manufacturers who want to build these capabilities into their products.

“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.

The new specification, he added, builds upon the AirTag protections and with the help of Google, leads to “a critical step” in combating unwanted on iOS and Android devices.

“Bluetooth trackers have created tremendous user benefits, but they also bring the potential of unwanted tracking, which requires industry wide action to solve,” said Dave Burke, Google’s vice president of Engineering for Android. “Android has an unwavering commitment to protecting users, and will continue to develop strong safeguards and collaborate with the industry to help combat the misuse of Bluetooth tracking devices.”

Last year, Apple updated its AirTags following reports that the tiny tracker had been tied to serious crimes like stalking and auto theft.

The company updated its iPhone and AirTag software to display a message during set up that tells users that using AirTags to track people is a crime and that law enforcement can request user information connected to the software.

Apple also debuted out a feature called “Precision Finding” that lets iPhone users know if there are unknown AirTags nearby. It’s an important feature, as the small size of the devices allows bad actors to slip them into a target’s bag or pocket without them noticing.