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This week Apple and Google jointly submitted a proposed industry specification to help combat the misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices for unwanted tracking. The two mobile phone makers are asking other manufacturers and providers to sign onto the new standard.

The specification, which both companies claim to be a “first-of-its-kind”, will allow Bluetooth location-tracking devices to be compatible with unauthorized tracking detection and alerts across iOS and Android platforms, according to the two tech giants. Apple and Google announced the draft specification in coordinated press releases in which they “welcome input from industry participants and advocacy groups” regarding the proposed standards.

Convenience leads to vulnerability

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

The draft spec offers best practices and instructions for manufacturers, should they choose to build these detection and alert capabilities into their products. So far, Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee have all expressed support for the draft specification, the companies claim.

In addition to incorporating feedback from device manufacturers, Apple and Google have also solicited input from various safety and advocacy groups. The companies say their concerns have also been incorporated into the specification’s development.

Building on Apple’s AirTag and Find My features

“Apple launched AirTag to give users the peace of mind knowing where to find their most important items,” said Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of Sensing and Connectivity. “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”.

“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”, he added.

The specification has been submitted as an Internet-Draft via the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a leading standards development organization. Interested parties are invited and encouraged to review and comment over the next three months.