Google Introduces Unknown Tracker Alerts to Enhance User Safety
Google today will begin to roll out a new safety feature, known as unknown tracker alerts. This feature was first announced at its developer event Google I/O this spring. It aims to alert Android users if an unknown Bluetooth device is traveling with them, which could indicate potential stalking using Apple AirTags or other Bluetooth tracking devices. Users can also manually scan for trackers and receive guidance on what to do next if a tracking device is found.
The Issues with Bluetooth Tracking
The misuse of Bluetooth tracking devices has become a growing concern. Reports have surfaced involving the use of AirTags for stalking and illegal activities like tracking cars for planned thefts. In response, Apple pledged to address these issues by adding privacy warnings and alerts. However, these changes did not benefit Android users.
Collaboration Between Apple and Google
In May, Apple and Google jointly announced their intention to draft an industry-wide specification focused on alerting users about unwanted tracking from Bluetooth devices. The finalized spec is expected by the end of the year. As part of this increased cooperation, Google implemented improvements to its Find My Device network and introduced proactive alerts about trackers traveling with users, including support for Apple’s AirTag and other devices. Apple, however, will wait until the joint spec is finalized before implementing it.
How the Unknown Tracker Alerts Work
Once the alerts feature is rolled out, Android users will receive notifications if an unknown tracker is detected in their vicinity. Tapping on the notification provides a map showing where the tracker was seen traveling with the user. There is also an option to play a sound on the tracker to help locate it. If the tracker is found, holding it near the phone can provide additional information about the device or owner. Users will also be given instructions on how to disable the Bluetooth device and prevent future tracking.
Manual Scanning for Trackers
In addition to automatic alerts, users can manually scan their surroundings for nearby Bluetooth trackers. This can be done by accessing Android’s Settings, selecting “Safety & Emergency,” choosing “Unknown tracker alerts,” and tapping “Scan Now.” The manual scan takes about 10 seconds and provides tips on what to do if a tracker is found.
Updates on Find My Device Network Delayed
Google had previously announced updates to its Find My Device network allowing users to locate various belongings, including headphones, phones, and everyday items like keys and luggage using third-party Bluetooth tracker tags. However, these updates are currently on hold as Google collaborates with Apple to finalize the joint unwanted tracker alert specification.