Google is taking a significant step towards enhancing user safety by rolling out a new safety feature called “unknown tracker alerts” for Android users. The feature, initially announced at the Google I/O developer event earlier this year, aims to address the growing concerns around Bluetooth tracking, particularly the misuse of Apple AirTags for stalking and illegal activities like tracking cars for theft.
Starting today, Android users will automatically receive alerts if an unknown Bluetooth device is detected in close proximity, which may indicate potential stalking through tracking devices. The feature provides users with the ability to scan for trackers manually, ensuring they are well informed and empowered to take necessary actions when suspicious devices are detected.
The emergence of Bluetooth tracking concerns prompted Apple to implement privacy warnings and alerts on its AirTags earlier, but these measures did not extend to Android users. However, in a collaborative effort to prioritize user safety, Apple and Google jointly announced their intention to develop an industry-wide specification that addresses unwanted tracking from Bluetooth devices. The finalized specification is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
As part of its commitment to user safety, Google is now launching its own custom implementation ahead of the finalized joint specification. The new alerts feature provides Android users with notifications when an unknown tracker is detected to be traveling with them. Users can view a map of the tracker’s journey and use the “Play Sound” option to locate the device.
If the device is found, users can gather more information by bringing it close to the back of their phone, revealing details like the serial number or the last four digits of the owner’s phone number. The feature also includes instructions on disabling the Bluetooth device to prevent further tracking and updates from the tracker.
Furthermore, Google is introducing the option for manual scans, allowing users to proactively search their surroundings for potential Bluetooth trackers. This way, users can take control and initiate scans at any time without relying solely on automatic alerts.
Another exciting update initially announced at Google I/O 2023 was the Find My Device network’s expansion to include other missing belongings like headphones, phones, luggage, and keys. The network would allow users to locate these items even when offline, making use of third-party Bluetooth tracker tags. Brands like Tile, Chipolo, and Pebblebee were set to be supported, alongside audio devices like Pixel Buds and headphones from Sony and JBL. However, Google decided to put these updates on hold to collaborate with Apple on the joint unwanted tracker alert specification.
Google’s decision to pause the Find My Device network rollout is indicative of the company’s commitment to prioritizing user safety and working in unison with Apple to ensure a comprehensive solution is established for both Android and iOS users. As the joint specification nears completion, users can anticipate a more secure and seamless experience when dealing with Bluetooth tracking concerns.