Apple and Google have introduced a new industry standard called “Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers,” aimed at enhancing user security by alerting individuals when unknown Bluetooth devices may be tracking them. This standard, announced on May 13, 2024, will be integrated into iOS 17.5 and Android 6.0+ devices, enabling both iPhone and Android users to receive alerts about potentially unwanted tracking.

Key Features of the Standard

  1. Cross-Platform Alerts: Users will receive an “[Item] Found Moving With You” notification if an unknown Bluetooth device is detected moving with them, irrespective of the platform the device is paired with.
  2. OS-Level Integration: This new standard is integrated at the operating system level, providing a more comprehensive solution compared to previous app-based approaches.
  3. Initial Rollout: Apple has begun introducing this capability in iOS 17.5, while Google has implemented it in Android 6.0+ devices.

Background and Development

The initiative follows a series of incidents where Bluetooth trackers, such as Apple’s AirTags, were misused for stalking and unauthorized tracking. Apple and Google had announced their collaboration on this initiative in May of the previous year, intending to develop a unified system to protect users from such threats.

Supporting Companies

Several Bluetooth tag companies, including Chipolo, eufy, Jio, Motorola, and Pebblebee, have pledged to make their future tags compatible with this new industry standard. This cooperation ensures broader adoption and efficacy in preventing unwanted tracking.

Future Developments

Apple and Google are working with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) through the Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers working group to refine and formalize the standard. This collaboration aims to establish a robust and widely accepted protocol for detecting and mitigating the risks associated with unwanted Bluetooth tracking.

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