Tile Sticker and Apple AirTag

Todd Haselton | CNBC

An apple and Google announced Monday that updated iPhones and Android phones will display warnings alerting users that there is a wireless location tracking device nearby in case the user did not know they were being tracked and wanted to stop it.

The move is the latest sign that the two major platforms are working to address the shortcoming of wireless trackers — such as Apple’s AirTag — which can be useful for finding lost or stolen items by showing their location on a digital map, but can also used by criminals to track people.

iPhones and Android devices with up-to-date software will receive a message telling them that a Bluetooth tracker has been “detected moving with you”. Users can then have the tracker play a sound to make it easier to find, and access instructions on how to disable it.

When AirTags were first introduced by Apple in 2021, they quickly found an audience among consumers who would attach the small devices to their keys, baggageor even their carallowing them to use Apple’s global network of devices and Bluetooth signals to quickly find their lost items—for example, checked luggage that never arrived after a flight.

But the devices have also been used for crimes, and some victims have said they were AirTagged on crowded tracking bar. Apple has since worked with Google to integrate alerts and warnings into iOS and Android to crack down on criminal abuse. Alerts specifically warning against the AirTag traveling with the user are now built into Android.

AirTag is also now just one of many Bluetooth trackers. Apple and Google allow third-party companies, such as Chipolo and Motorola, to build their own devices.

But when third-party companies build so-called “Find My” trackers for lost devices, they must build them to Apple’s and Google’s specifications, which will now require unwanted tracking warnings.

Apple and Google have said they are working together to create a public industry specification for these types of Bluetooth tracking devices, but while the official standard isn’t complete, both companies have implemented the warnings into their operating systems, starting with iOS 17.5 on Apple, which will be released on Monday, and Android devices with version 6.0 or later.

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