Tech giants Apple and Google, which track user data incessantly as part of their business models, are teaming up on an app to prevent others from tracking users in an obvious move to corner the user market once and for all.
According to the Washington Times, the tech behemoths “are working to develop new alerts of unwanted tracking to warn people when someone is spying on their movements through Bluetooth location-tracking products.” The outlet added: “Bluetooth location-tracking tools help people find lost luggage, keys or other items but they can be misused by stalkers or others to inappropriately surveil your whereabouts.”
On Tuesday, Apple announced that it had collaborated with Google to create a preliminary proposal aimed at enabling Bluetooth location-tracking tools to be interoperable with tracking detection and alerts on their respective operating systems to inform iPhone and Android users about any unwanted surveillance activities. But of course, that will mean Apple and Google will be tracking app users.
Google’s Vice President of Engineering for Android, Dave Burke, stated that preventing unwanted Bluetooth tracking will require a collective effort from the technology industry, the Times reported.
“Android has an unwavering commitment to protecting users, and will continue to develop strong safeguards and collaborate with the industry to help combat the misuse of Bluetooth tracking devices,” he said in a statement.
The proposed industry specification for the alert system submitted by Apple and Google has been sent to the Internet Engineering Task Force, a standards development organization that will allow other tech developers to review and comment on the proposal. Apple said that Samsung and Tile, manufacturers of Bluetooth products designed to help people locate lost items such as keys and wallets, are among the companies that support the plan.
Apple’s current system sends out alerts to users if their AirTags or Find My devices are being used to track them without their knowledge or consent. AirTags are designed to help users locate lost items, while Find My allows Apple users to track the location of their Apple devices, said the Times, adding what we all know to be true:
Apple’s products do not always make people feel safe and secure. For example, swimsuit model Brooks Nader found that a stalker slipped an Apple AirTag into her coat pocket last year, which she later discovered when her iPhone alerted her to an unknown accessory moving with her, according to a report by the New York Post.
Apple has since updated its personal safety user guide, which includes information about what to do if people find an unknown AirTag in their presence.
On Tuesday, Apple’s vice president of Sensing and Connectivity, Ron Huang, stated that the Find My network and AirTag were created to prevent undesired tracking, and the proposed collaboration with Google aims to extend this protection.
“This new industry specification builds upon the AirTag protections, and through collaboration with Google results in a critical step forward to help combat unwanted tracking across iOS and Android,” said Huang in a statement.
Mind you, both of these companies have been facing increasing scrutiny over their privacy policies in recent years. Privacy concerns have been growing among users as these companies collect vast amounts of personal data in order to improve their services and target ads.
Google, in particular, has come under fire for its data collection practices. The company tracks users’ location data, search histories, and other personal information to create personalized advertising. While Google claims that this data is anonymized and is used to improve user experience, critics argue that the company’s practices are invasive and put user privacy at risk.
Apple, on the other hand, has positioned itself as a champion of privacy. The company has implemented strict privacy policies in its products, such as end-to-end encryption in iMessage and FaceTime, and has refused to comply with law enforcement requests to unlock iPhones.
But some critics have argued that Apple’s privacy stance is more of a marketing ploy than a genuine commitment to privacy.