Apple and Google are trying to stop AirTag stalking

Apple and Google are teaming up to prevent the misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices like Apple’s AirTag. 

Due to numerous reports of people misusing such products for activities like stalking, the tech giants have drafted a specification proposal to notify Android and Apple devices to unauthorized tracking detection and alerts. Companies like Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee have expressed support. Feedback from manufacturers and advocacy groups has also been incorporated into the proposal and submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force for review. 

Of the development, Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of Sensing and Connectivity, said:

“This new industry specification builds upon the AirTag protections, and through collaboration with Google, results in a critical step forward to help combat unwanted tracking across iOS and Android.”

AirTags and their abuse potential 

AirTags were launched in 2021 with the simple purpose of helping people keep track of their things. With prices starting at $29, users can throw the tiny disc in their luggage or attach it to their keys and simply check their phones if they misplace something. It utilizes Bluetooth signals and Apple’s crowdsourced Find My network map to locate missing items.

It all sounds very convenient and innocent, but the potential for abuse was high, and reports suggest people did indeed start using them for nefarious purposes, especially in the area of domestic violence.

According to CNN, two women sued Apple in 2022, claiming that two previous romantic partners had used AirTags to stalk them. One woman said her partner hid the device in the wheel well of the tire of her car, while the other said her ex-husband planted it in her child’s backpack to keep track of their whereabouts. In another horrific case, a woman used an AirTag to track her cheating boyfriend and subsequently murdered him

How the specification will work

If someone happens to be in the vicinity of an AirTag or tracking device they didn’t set up; they’ll receive an alert on their phone informing them that a nearby AirTag has been separated from its owner. It will also provide instructions on how to locate and disable the device. 

The tech community and abuse advocates have welcomed the move to create a specification for misuse. In Apple and Google’s press release, Erica Olsen, the senior director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s Safety Net Project said: 

“These new standards will minimize opportunities for abuse of this technology and decrease the burden on survivors in detecting unwanted trackers. We are grateful for these efforts and look forward to continuing to work together to address unwanted tracking and misuse.”

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