Apple and Google join forces to tackle the side-effects of location trackers

Damien Wilde / Android Authority

TL;DR

  • Google and Apple have announced a new industry standard to alert users if an unknown Bluetooth tracker is moving with them.
  • This collaborative effort aims to address concerns about the misuse of Bluetooth trackers for unauthorized tracking.

Google and Apple have announced the joint development of an industry specification called “Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers (DULT).” This specification aims to protect users of both Android and iOS devices by alerting them if an unknown Bluetooth tracking device is being used to track their movements without their knowledge.

Bluetooth trackers like Apple’s AirTags have revolutionized how people locate lost items. Google’s recently updated Find My Device network, similar to Apple’s “Find My” network, utilizes crowdsourced data from millions of devices to locate lost items.

However, the rise of such trackers has also raised concerns about potential misuse for unwanted tracking. To address this, Google and Apple have collaborated to establish the DULT as an industry standard and enhance their respective Find My networks, aiming to protect users from unauthorized tracking while still enabling the convenient location of belongings.

Android users with devices running Android 6.0 or later will receive a “Tracker traveling with you” alert, while iPhone users on iOS 17.5 will see an “[Item] Found Moving With You” alert.

Both alerts will provide users with the tracker’s identifier, instructions on how to deactivate it, and the option to trigger a sound from the tracker to aid in its location. Several Bluetooth trackers, including Chipolo, eufy, Jio, Motorola, and Pebblebee, have committed to ensuring their future products are compatible with this new standard.

This collaborative effort between Google and Apple builds upon previous attempts to address unwanted tracking. In 2021, Apple released a “Tracker Detect” app for Android, allowing users to identify nearby AirTags. However, the new industry standard takes a more comprehensive, OS-level approach, providing seamless and automatic alerts to users across both platforms.

Both companies emphasize their commitment to user privacy and safety. Google highlights the multiple layers of protection built into its Find My Device service, and Apple reaffirms the privacy and safety features inherent in its AirTag and Find My network accessories.

They will continue working together within the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to further develop and refine the official standard for detecting unwanted location trackers.

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