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Apple & Google Combat Unwanted Bluetooth Trackers On iOS & Android

Apple and Google have joined forces to combat unwanted Bluetooth trackers by alerting individuals. The two brands have created a brand-new industry standard, called ‘Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers,’ which will alert an individual, whether it’s on iOS or Android, if they are being tracked via a Bluetooth tracking device.

It wasn’t specified how people would be alerted, whether it be via text message, email, or pop-up notifications.

In the event an unknown Bluetooth device has been noticed moving with someone for a period of time, that person will receive an alert that reads “[Item] Found Moving With You.” This message will appear no matter which platform the tracker has been paired with.

Apple and Google have begun rolling this new feature out for iOS 17.5 and Android 6.0 and later.

Last May, the companies announced this partnership, backed by Samsung and Tile. Apple has revealed other brands including Chipolo, Eufy, Jio, Motorola, and Pebblebee are some of the companies which believe the new standard will work with their future Bluetooth tags.

Apple started selling AirTags three years ago, and soon after, reports of bad actors using them to track people and steal cars emerged.

Apple started planning ways to make it challenging for stalkers to use these devices, and has refined the approach over time.

Additionally, the company released an Android app in late 2021, in order to help people identify if an AirTag was being used to track them.

This new step will take it one step further and warn people about unwanted trackers across both iOS and Android devices.

Apple has also had to face legal challenges over this AirTag stalking, and in March, a judge in San Fransisco rejected the company’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit over the issue.

The judge ruled the company has to face the lawsuit, and accused it of negligence over the potential risk of stalking created by the AirTag devices.

The majority of the claims in the suit were dismissed. However, the judge denied Apple’s plea to have the suit thrown out, based on three claims alleging that “when they were stalked, the problems with the AirTag’s safety features were substantial, and that those safety defects caused their injuries.”

The lawsuit argued that Apple was warned of the possibility of misuse, and must be held liable. Apple disagreed with this, according to Bloomberg.

After releasing the AirTags, the company proceeded with rolling out safety features designed to combat stalking attempts. This included an update that made the device emit a loud sound when it reached a certain distance away from the owner, and notifications about unknown trackers.

The lawsuit also argued that AirTags have “become the weapon of choice of stalkers and abusers,” according to Bloomberg.

In related news, there has also been speculation that Google is also working on a Bluetooth tracker, with the possibility of it being revealed at the upcoming Google I/O developer conference.

Tipster Kuba Wojciechowski revealed that Google’s Nest team is developing a tracker codenamed “Grogu,” which will reportedly include an onboard speaker, and support for both Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and ultra-wideband (UWB).

Wojciechowski found evidence of the tracker after noticing the company added support for locator tags in its developer hub for Fast Pair. This is an Android feature that allows the quick connecting of Bluetooth devices.

There are currently no specific details about this new tracker, and it’s unclear if Google will be able to replicate the experience of Apple’s AirTags.

Wojciechowski claimed the Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro both shipped with UWB modules. This would allow them to direct the user to nearby objects. However, he noted Google’s “finder” network won’t require UWB, and that BLE should be enough.

Google is unable to guarantee each Android phone will ship with UWB, according to Wojciechowski. However, he claims the company are working with chipset makers to help them support Fast Pair.

In November last year, Samsung faced a lawsuit over its SmartTag tracking sensors, which were claimed to lack adequate protective measures to protect innocent victims.

And there was a lawsuit filed in August last year against Tile, with the plaintiffs alleging negligence, unjust enrichment, privacy violations, and design defects.

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