Google’s new measure will alert Android users about unknown AirTags.

Google's new measure will alert Android users about unknown AirTags.

Google Introduces Safety Feature to Detect Unknown Bluetooth Trackers

Back in May, Google announced an upcoming safety feature that would alert Android users about nearby unknown Bluetooth trackers, including Apple’s AirTags. This feature is finally rolling out starting today, providing Android users with an extra layer of protection against potential stalkers.

The new tracking alert functionality is seamlessly integrated into Android smartphones, automatically notifying users if an unknown Bluetooth tracker is separated from its owner and detected in close proximity. In such cases, a notification is displayed on the user’s device, which can be tapped to view a map of where the tracker was last seen. Additionally, Android users have the option to play a sound on the tracker, helping them locate it more easily.

To make the detection process even more helpful, Google also provides device information such as the serial number or the last four digits of the phone number from the registered owner, along with instructions on how to physically disable the tracker. This empowers users with the necessary knowledge and tools to take immediate action if they suspect that a Bluetooth tracker is being used maliciously.

Currently, the unknown tracker alert feature is compatible with AirTags from Apple, but Google has plans to expand its support to other tracker brands like Tile. This ensures that Android users can benefit from this safety measure regardless of the type of Bluetooth tracker being used around them.

A Solution to AirTag Criticism

Google’s implementation of this new feature addresses a major issue with AirTags. When Apple introduced AirTags, they included an anti-stalking function to prevent them from being used for tracking people. However, this feature had to be refined multiple times to increase its effectiveness. While iPhone users have long been able to receive notifications about nearby unknown AirTags with the “AirTag Found Moving With You” alerts, Android users were left more vulnerable. They would need to download Apple’s Android-based “Tracker Detect” app to detect potential stalking attempts.

The inability of Android users to easily detect AirTags being used for nefarious purposes became a significant criticism of AirTags over the past two years. However, with the introduction of this new feature, compatible Android devices now automatically detect nearby AirTags, eliminating the need for Android users to seek out a separate application.

Collaboration Between Google and Apple

Earlier this year, Google and Apple collaborated to address the misuse of Bluetooth item trackers for stalking purposes. They jointly submitted a new industry specification that allows Android and iOS devices to detect nearby Bluetooth devices and send unwanted tracking alerts for third-party item trackers.

As part of this specification, Google has plans to natively support tracking third-party Bluetooth tracking accessories from companies like Tile and Chipolo on Android devices. While Google is ready to roll out this new “Find My Device” network, it has decided to delay its implementation until Apple finalizes the cross-platform unwanted tracker alert specification they are currently developing together.

At present, Apple’s “Find My” app is capable of tracking third-party Bluetooth accessories, but only those that have implemented specific support using Apple’s protocol. This means Bluetooth trackers from companies like Tile cannot be natively tracked by iPhones without the Tile app. The aim of Apple and Google’s collaboration is to solve this problem and enable seamless tracking of a wider range of Bluetooth trackers across both iOS and Android platforms.

Leading Bluetooth-based tracking device manufacturers, including Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, Eufy, and Pebblebee, have expressed their support for this joint specification and intend to implement it. Apple and Google have stated that a production implementation of the unwanted tracking alerts specification will be introduced by the end of 2023 and incorporated into future versions of iOS and Android.

This collaboration is a positive step forward in ensuring the safety and privacy of users across different platforms. By working together, Google and Apple can create a unified experience for tracking Bluetooth devices, protecting users from potential stalkers and preserving their peace of mind.

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Android Unknown Tracker Alert