Apple and Google join forces to address unwanted tracking via Bluetooth devices like AirTag

A new cross-platform solution for iPhone and Android should help prevent stalking of people via Bluetooth devices like Apple’s AirTag personal item tracker.

A closeup photograph of an Apple AirTag being held between a person's thumb and index finger, with the tracker's stainless steel back exposed to the camera
iOS 18 will implement the new solution | Image: Thai Nguyen / Unsplash
  • Apple and Google have proposed measures to prevent unwanted tracking on iPhone and Android via personal item trackers like the AirTag.
  • The companies submitted a draft proposal for interoperability between unauthorized tracking detection and alerts across iOS and Android.
  • Industry players like Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security and Pebblebee support the draft specification, but they’re not obliged to implement it.

Apple and Google want to stop unwanted tracking via AirTag-like devices

Personal item trackers like AirTag use crowdsourced finding networks to update their location. Apple’s Find My app can quickly locate dvices in the Find My network.

An accessory like AirTag advertises its presence to nearby devices via Bluetooth. If another Apple device picks up the signal, it will update the AirTag’s location in the Find My network. But this also opens doors to misuse, as we saw in the past.

The announcement in the Apple Newsroom explains how the submitted proposal strives to prevent potential privacy misuse concerning personal item trackers.

Basically, Google and Apple will make their systems compatible so that an Android phone can alert the user if an unknown AirTag or similar personal item tracker is moving with them. The same goes for iPhone owners, of course.

Coming wiht iOS 18

Over the next three, the companies will incorporate indusrty feedback into developing the specification to ensure this is a truly cross-platform solution.

“We commend Apple and Google for their partnership and dedication to developing a uniform solution to improve detectability,” said Alexandra Reeve Givens, the Center for Democracy & Technology’s president and CEO.

Once the new specification has been finalized, Apple and Google will detail how the solution will be integrated into future versions of iOS and Android. The cutoff date for this is the end of 2023, so don’t expect this solution to be applied to Apple’s and Google’s operating systems sooner than iOS 18 in 2024.