In a collaborative effort with Apple, Google announced earlier in May that they were joining forces to prevent unwanted tracking through AirTags and similar devices. Today, Google is pleased to unveil the rollout of “unknown tracker alerts” for Android devices running on version 6.0 and later. At present, this feature is limited to AirTags, but Google is actively working with tag manufacturers to extend this safeguard to other tracking tags in the future.
Here’s how it works: If an unfamiliar Bluetooth tracker is detected to be traveling with you and separated from its owner, your Android device will promptly notify you. By tapping on the notification, you can access additional information about the tracker and view its travel history on a map. Google has thoughtfully included a “play sound” option, enabling you to locate the tracker discreetly without alerting its owner.
Moreover, when the tracker comes into proximity with the back of your phone, it may share its serial number or provide more information about its owner, such as the last four digits of their phone number. For added control, users have the option to disable the tracker completely, preventing its owner from receiving any future location updates from it.
This new feature is part of Google’s ongoing commitment to combat stalking activities facilitated by AirTags and AirTag-like trackers. The implementation represents a positive step in the right direction for user safety. Notably, Google has also incorporated a manual scan feature, allowing users to proactively check their surroundings for trackers without waiting for an alert.
To perform a manual search, users can navigate to Settings > Safety & Emergency > Unknown Tracker Alerts, and tap the “Scan Now” button on their Android device. The scan typically takes around 10 seconds to complete.
In a strategic decision, Google will be holding the rollout of its Find My Device network until Apple integrates similar protections in iOS. According to the company, the joint specification for unwanted tracker alerts is expected to be finalized by the end of this year, paving the way for the Find My Device network to go live.
The initiative by Google and Apple is receiving positive feedback for enhancing user privacy and security, particularly in cases where tracking devices could be misused for stalking or unauthorized surveillance.