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Apple, Google Propose Standard to Combat Misuse of Location-Tracking Devices

Apple and Google propose new industry specification for Bluetooth location-tracking devices, to prevent unwanted tracking.

Apple Google location tracking standard

Apple and Google this week submitted a draft industry specification aimed at preventing unwanted location tracking.

The initiative targets accessories with built-in location-tracking capabilities that use Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) as the transport protocol and which are small enough to be difficult to discover – such as Apple’s AirTag product.

The document proposes a set of best practices and protocols that manufacturers of such accessories should follow to ensure that their devices are compatible with unwanted tracking detection and alerts on mobile devices.

The initiative, the tech giants say, is meant to protect the privacy of individuals from unwanted tracking for nefarious purposes, including harassment and theft.

“Formalizing a set of best practices for manufacturers will allow for scalable compatibility with unwanted tracking detection technologies on various smartphone platforms and improve privacy and security for individuals,” the draft document reads.

Additionally, the initiative proposes that individuals are alerted when a location tracker that has been separated from the owner’s device is traveling with them and that they are provided with means to identify and disable the tracker.

Per the proposed requirements, the location-tracking accessories shall advertise using Bluetooth LE, must support at least one non-owner unencrypted connection, and shall log internally when its location was shared with the owner.

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“The first-of-its-kind specification will allow Bluetooth location-tracking devices to be compatible with unauthorized tracking detection and alerts across Android and iOS platforms. Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, Eufy Security, and Pebblebee have expressed support for the draft specification,” the tech giants say.

Before submitting the proposed specification to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), Apple and Google requested input from manufacturers and safety and advocacy groups.

The two companies encourage all interested parties to review the draft proposal and provide feedback over the next three months. A production implementation of the specification, which will be supported by both Android and iOS, is expected to be released by the end of the year.

Related: 40 States Settle Google Location-Tracking Charges for $392M

Related: Flaws in Apple Location Tracking System Could Lead to User Identification

Related: Researchers Devise New Type of Bluetooth LE Relay Attacks

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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