Apple and Google Launch Cross-Platform Feature to Detect Unwanted Bluetooth Tracking Devices

16.05.2024

 

Apple and Google announced the launch of a new feature on Monday, which notifies users on both iOS and Android platforms if a Bluetooth tracking device is being used to monitor them without their consent.

“This will help prevent the misuse of devices intended to track belongings,” the companies stated jointly, noting it’s aimed at addressing “potential risks to user privacy and safety.”

The concept for a cross-platform solution was first revealed exactly a year ago by the two tech giants.

The feature, named “Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers” (DULT), is now available on Android devices running versions 6.0 and later, and iOS devices with iOS 17.5, which was released yesterday.

As per the industry specification, Android users will receive a “Tracker traveling with you” alert if an unidentified Bluetooth tracking device is detected moving with them over time, regardless of the platform it’s paired with. On iOS, users will see an “[Item] Found Moving With You” message.

Regardless of the operating system, users receiving such alerts have the choice to view the tracker’s identifier, play a sound to locate it, and access instructions to disable it.

“This cross-platform collaboration — also a first in the industry, involving input from the community and industry — provides guidance and best practices for manufacturers, should they decide to integrate unwanted tracking alert capabilities into their products,” the companies added.

The move comes in response to reports that trackers like AirTags are being misused by malicious actors for criminal purposes, often used as a tool for stalking by domestic abusers.

A class-action lawsuit filed against Apple in October 2023 claimed that AirTags have become “one of the most dangerous and frightening technologies used by stalkers” and can be used to obtain “real-time location information to track victims.”

Last year, a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, San Diego, developed a cryptographic scheme that offers a better balance between user privacy and stalker detection through a mechanism known as multi-dealer secret sharing (MDSS).

“MDSS extends standard secret sharing to accommodate multiple dealers with multiple secrets while achieving new properties of unlinkability and multi-dealer correctness,” the researchers explained in a paper titled “Abuse-Resistant Location Tracking: Balancing Privacy and Safety in the Offline Finding Ecosystem.”

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