In recent years, concerns have been raised about the prevalence of stalking and online harassment. As technology continues to advance, so too do the methods and tools that stalkers and harassers use to target their victims. In response to these concerns, Google and Apple have announced plans to introduce new features in their respective operating systems, Android and iOS, aimed at reducing the risk of stalking and harassment.
In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at these new features and how they work, as well as their potential impact on online safety.
Google’s Safety Check Feature
In May 2023, Google announced the release of a new feature for Android called “Safety Check.” The feature is designed to help users quickly check if their device is being tracked or monitored by someone else.
When activated, the Safety Check feature will scan the device for any signs of stalking or monitoring, such as location tracking or suspicious apps. If the feature detects any potential signs of stalking or harassment, it will alert the user and provide resources and guidance on how to stay safe and secure.
In addition to the Safety Check feature, Google has also announced plans to improve the security of its app store, Google Play. This includes new measures to detect and remove apps that may be used for stalking or harassment, as well as new policies to prevent app developers from using sensitive user data without permission.
Apple’s Privacy and Security Features
Apple has also announced a range of new privacy and security features for iOS, aimed at reducing the risk of stalking and harassment. These features include:
- App Tracking Transparency: This feature requires apps to ask for permission before tracking users across other apps and websites. This can help to prevent stalkers and harassers from using apps to track and monitor their victims.
- Enhanced Find My App: Apple’s Find My app has been updated to include support for third-party accessories, such as AirTag. The app now also includes features to help prevent stalking, such as alerts when an unknown AirTag is detected and the ability to disable an AirTag if it is being used for stalking.
- Mail Privacy Protection: This feature is designed to prevent senders of email messages from using invisible pixels to track when and where an email is opened. This can help to prevent stalkers and harassers from using email to monitor their victims.
- iCloud Private Relay: This feature is designed to encrypt all traffic leaving a user’s device, making it more difficult for stalkers and harassers to intercept and monitor communication.
The Impact of these Features
The introduction of these new features by Google and Apple is a positive step forward in the fight against stalking and harassment. By providing users with tools and resources to detect and prevent stalking, these features can help to reduce the risk of harm and provide greater peace of mind for users.
In addition, these features can also help to change the culture around stalking and harassment. By making it clear that stalking and harassment are unacceptable and will not be tolerated, these features can help to create a safer and more supportive online environment.
However, it’s important to note that these features are not a silver bullet for online safety. They are just one part of a larger strategy that includes education, awareness, and support for victims of stalking and harassment.
It’s also important to ensure that these features are accessible and easy to use for all users, including those who may be at higher risk of stalking and harassment, such as women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Google and Apple’s new features for Android and iOS represent an important step forward in the fight against stalking and harassment. By providing users with tools and resources to detect and prevent stalking, these features can help to reduce the risk of harm and create a safer and more supportive online environment.
However, it’s important to remember that these features are just one part of a larger strategy for online safety. It’s important for individuals, organizations, and communities to work together to raise awareness about stalking and harassment, provide support for victims, and hold perpetrators accountable.
In addition, it’s important for technology companies to continue to invest in the development of new features and technologies that can help to improve online safety. This includes not only features to detect and prevent stalking and harassment, but also measures to protect user privacy and security more broadly.
Ultimately, the fight against stalking and harassment is an ongoing effort that requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach. By working together, we can help to create a safer and more supportive online environment for everyone.