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New working group aims to make spotting unwanted trackers easier

14 Mar 2024

Location-tracking accessories provide numerous benefits to users, such as being able to find where they left their keys. But they can also have security and privacy implications if used for malicious purposes. A newly formed IETF working group has taken on the task to standardize a protocol that protects people against being unknowingly tracked.

The newly-chartered Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers (DULT) working group was formed after intense discussions across two Birds of a Feather sessions.


While the working group goals may seem straightforward, the technical issues involved in defining a protocol that enables implementation across multiple device manufacturers require careful consideration. For example, the working group will consider mechanisms to ensure that devices that do not correctly implement or adhere to the DULT protocol can be detected and excluded from being trackable via crowdsourced location networks.

And, of course, the mechanisms specified by the WG must be designed to not create new vectors for user tracking.

The complete charter for the DULT working group provides further detail about how it will go about its work. For example, the charter calls for the working group to to work with gender-based violence experts throughout development of the protocol. The combination of the trauma-informed expertise with the technical knowledge will be an important aspect to address these specific threat models. Since most of the existing tracking accessories use Bluetooth, the DULT WG will coordinate, as needed, with the Bluetooth SIG and IETF 6lo WG

While the WG will aim to minimize hardware changes needed in tracking accessories to implement this protocol, it will also aim to not preclude adoption by manufacturers of larger devices whose primary purpose is not location tracking, but have location tracking capabilities (e.g., headphones, bicycles, and smartphones).

The DULT working group will meet for the first time at the upcoming IETF 119 meeting.

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