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Business News/ Technology / News/  Apple and Google join forces to block misuse of bluetooth tracking devices. Details inside
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Apple and Google join forces to block misuse of bluetooth tracking devices. Details inside

On Tuesday, Apple and Google released a proposal to establish standards aimed at preventing the misuse of Bluetooth tracking devices such as Apple AirTag and other similar tech gadgets for unwanted tracking and stalking.

Apple introduced AirTags in the year 2021. It comes with a price tag of $29 in the US and ₹3,490 in India.Premium
Apple introduced AirTags in the year 2021. It comes with a price tag of $29 in the US and 3,490 in India.

Apple has teamed up with Google to address the issue of unauthorized use of Bluetooth tracking devices like AirTags for stalking people without their consent. Together, the tech giants are taking steps to prevent this type of behavior and ensure the safety and privacy of individuals.

On Tuesday, Apple and Google released a proposal to establish standards aimed at preventing the misuse of Bluetooth tracking devices such as Apple AirTag and other similar tech gadgets for unwanted tracking and stalking. Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, and Pebblebee - producers of other popular tracking brands - have also endorsed the proposal, according to a joint press release by the companies.

The proposal is a response to the increased number of incidents where Bluetooth tracking devices, such as AirTags, have been misused for nefarious purposes. These devices were initially created to assist users in keeping track of personal belongings like wallets or luggage. However, there have been reports of stalking incidents involving these devices. Moreover, there was a March incident in Texas where a man used an AirTag to track his stolen truck and ultimately killed the person whom he suspected had stolen it.

According to the joint statement by the companies, they intend to develop software that can notify users via their smartphones when a nearby tracker has been disconnected from its owner's device. This alert will allow users to locate and disable the tracker in question.

As per the proposal, the trackers would be mandated to emit a sound when they are disconnected from the owner's device or when a non-owner is attempting to locate them after being alerted to their presence. Additionally, manufacturers would need to include instructions or a visual guide that explains how to disable a tracker when a non-owner finds it.

In the event that someone discovers a tracker that doesn't belong to them, the proposal suggests that they should be able to access limited information about the tracker's owner. This information would include a few digits or letters of the associated phone number or email address.

The proposal explains that providing limited information about the tracker's owner, such as a few digits or letters of their phone number or email address, is crucial because in many cases, the person being tracked without their knowledge is familiar with the person doing the tracking. By providing this information, the person who finds the tracker can confirm the owner's identity if they recognize the associated information. However, the limited information is not enough to identify the tracker's owner in the event that the tracker is found mistakenly.

Apple and Google have not specified a timeline for the rollout of the proposed features, which will be delivered through software updates for iPhones and Androids. Nevertheless, Apple mentioned in a statement that it aims to release a version of the updates by the end of this year.

Although Apple and some other companies have already implemented a similar system to the one proposed on Tuesday, it has not been widely adopted and lacks advanced capabilities. Consequently, some experts, such as Washington Post's tech columnist Geoffrey Fowler, have criticized the current alert systems for being insufficient. Fowler has argued that the system needs to be more proactive in alerting users.

Erica Olsen, the Senior Director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence's Safety Net Project, commended the proposal as a positive step in a statement, stating that the responsibility for preventing tracking should fall on the manufacturers of the trackers, not the individuals being tracked. Olsen emphasized that unwanted surveillance is frequently employed as a tool of abuse, and it is critical for technology companies and advocates to collaborate on solutions that reduce the risk of misuse. She went on to say that the draft standards to enable the detection of unwanted trackers represent a significant step forward in the drive to enhance safety and privacy.

 

 

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Published: 05 May 2023, 11:59 AM IST
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