Google is introducing a new safety feature called “unknown tracker alerts” for Android users. This feature was first announced at the Google I/O developer event earlier in the year. It will automatically notify Android users if an unfamiliar Bluetooth device is detected to be traveling with them, which could indicate that they might be unknowingly tracked using an Apple AirTag or similar Bluetooth tracking device. Users will also have the option to manually scan for such trackers using their Android device and will be provided with guidance on what to do if a tracking device is found.
The concern about Bluetooth tracking arose when reports surfaced of people misusing AirTags for stalking and illegal activities like tracking vehicles for theft. In response, Apple made changes to AirTag to address the issue and added privacy warnings and alerts. However, these changes did not benefit Android users.
In May, Apple and Google jointly announced their plans to create an industry-wide specification to address unwanted tracking from Bluetooth devices. Google decided to take proactive measures to protect Android users by implementing a custom version of the alerts feature ahead of the finalized joint specification. On the other hand, Apple will wait for the joint specification to be completed before making any changes.
With the new alerts feature, Android users will receive notifications if an unknown tracker is found to be in their vicinity. They can view a map showing the tracker’s location and use the “Play Sound” option to help locate the device. If the tracker is discovered, users can bring it close to their phone to access more information, such as the serial number or partial phone number of the owner.
Furthermore, users can manually scan their surroundings to check for nearby Bluetooth trackers. This manual scan can be initiated through the Android settings under “Safety & Emergency” and selecting “Unknown tracker alerts,” followed by tapping the “Scan Now” button. The scan will take about 10 seconds, and users will receive instructions on what to do if a tracker is detected, eliminating the need to rely solely on automatic alerts.
Google also announced plans to update its Find My Device network, allowing users to locate other missing belongings like headphones, phones, luggage, and keys using third-party Bluetooth tracker tags. However, the rollout of this update is currently on hold as Google collaborates with Apple to finalize the joint unwanted tracker alert specification by the end of the year. Once the joint spec is completed and Apple implements protections for iOS, Google will proceed with the Find My Device network update.