In an exciting update following the I/O 2023 event, Google is rolling out a new feature called “unknown tracker alerts,” for Android devices. This powerful addition aims to protect users from potential privacy risks posed by hidden Apple AirTags and similar Bluetooth trackers. By providing timely notifications and helpful actions, Google empowers users to take control of their safety and security.
Google makes move to protect Android users from AirTag surveillance
Android devices equipped with the latest update will now notify users if an “unknown Bluetooth tracker is separated from its owner and is determined to be traveling with you.” This notification raises awareness of potential unauthorized tracking and ensures users stay informed about their surroundings. From Google:
We care deeply about your safety, which is why we made sure to gather feedback from users, privacy and advocacy groups, and device manufacturers to help inform us as we designed unknown tracker alerts. We are committed to continuously working to improve how unknown tracker alerts work to help keep you safe on Android.
When receiving an alert, users can open it to view a map displaying the tracker’s movement alongside theirs. If the user suspects malicious intent, they can play a sound to locate the tracker discreetly, without alerting its owner.
Google offers three essential next steps to ensure user safety:
- Seek Help: If users feel unsafe, the notification encourages them to reach out to someone they trust or contact local law enforcement.
- Obtain Tracker Information: In the case of a lost tracker, users can find owner information. Google advises taking a screenshot of the map as these alerts are deleted after 48 hours.
- Disable the Tracker: If users identify a hidden tracker, the notification provides instructions on removing the battery by twisting off the AirTag cover.
Apart from automatic checks, users can manually scan for unknown trackers at any time through the Settings app > Safety & Emergency menu > Unknown tracker alerts > Scan Now. This quick 10-second scan generates a list of any trackers detected in the vicinity.
Initially, the unknown tracker alerts can detect Apple AirTags. However, Google is actively collaborating with other tracker tag manufacturers, including Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee, to broaden compatibility as part of a joint industry specification.
During the event, Google also announced that it is delaying the launch of its Find My Device network. This delay is primarily due to the implementation of unknown tracker alerts. Google has already introduced this feature, and it’s currently rolling out on Android devices. However, it’s not yet available on iPhones because Google and Apple have partnered to establish an industry-wide standard that other companies will adopt.
The delay comes as Apple hasn’t incorporated the required features for iOS yet. Nevertheless, Google expects the spec to be finalized by the end of the year, paving the way for a wider rollout on both Apple and Android devices next year.
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