Maybe Don't Stalk People, OK —

Apple and Google introduce standard to combat AirTag and Tile tracker misuse

Tracker-makers will chime in over the coming months to finalize the standard.

Today, Apple and Google announced that the two companies have jointly "submitted a proposed" specification to combat stalking using devices like AirTag or Tile trackers.

In its newsroom post, Apple claims that the specification has been developed based on feedback from a range of device manufacturers as well as safety and advocacy groups. Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, Eufy, and Pebblebee have all "expressed support" for the specification.

This new development comes after countless examples of trackers like Apple's AirTag trackers being used for malicious stalking in various contexts. When Ars first reviewed the AirTag, we wrote that the tracker's capabilities were impressive for its intended uses—but that they were unfortunately also impressive for malicious purposes.

Over time, Apple has introduced a series of tweaks and new programs related to AirTag trackers that have lessened (but not eliminated) some of those concerns. Generally, iPhone users are better protected than Android users, who must opt in to download an app that will detect unwanted AirTag trackers. (iOS keeps tabs on that out of the box.)

Today's announcement contains few details about exactly what this standard is or how it will work, other than that it's intended to make it easier for a wide range of devices to be used in stopping unwanted tracking, both in terms of trackers that are more easily detected and a wider range of other devices facilitating their detection.

Apple and Google submitted this proposal through the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standards development group. Over the next few months, other companies will participate in a dialogue about the proposed standard through that organization; Apple and Google plan to implement the standard as soon as this year.

It's still early days, so it's impossible to comment on whether this standard will do what it's intended to do or if it will make a big change to the status quo. Nonetheless, something needs to happen: reports of misuse of trackers like these (and not just AirTag) have been widespread over the past few years.

Listing image by Samuel Axon

Channel Ars Technica