Google has begun rolling out a new safety update for Android phones to inform users if a Bluetooth tracking device has been placed near or on them.
Gadgets like the Apple AirTag are meant to help people find lost items, but some bad actors have been misusing them as an inexpensive tool to stalk people. Although Google doesn’t sell its own Bluetooth tags, it teamed up with multiple corporations to tackle this problem, and this patch is the result of their labor.
Moving forward, your Android phone will automatically notify you if it sees an unknown Bluetooth tracker “traveling with you.” Tapping the on-screen notification opens a map telling you where it was placed on you and the path you have taken since. There will be a Play Sound button you can tap to have the device “make a noise to help you locate it without” alerting any bad actors.
At this point, Unknown Tracker Alerts only work with the AirTags, but there are plans to expand the protective feature to similar products like the Tile Mate.
Once you locate the invasive gadget, your Android device will bring up a list of actions you can take. Suggestions include contacting law enforcement for help to holding the “tracker to the back of your phone.” Doing so may reveal more information about it, although it does depend if the original owner has marked their gadget as lost.
Google also recommends physically disabling the unwanted trackers; however, the instructions on the Android Help website only pertain to AirTags. No other brands are listed. The good news is disabling one is actually pretty easy to do. Simply push then twist the back of an AirTag counterclockwise to remove the cover and pop off the battery
The final feature in the update is a manual scan tool in the Settings menu to see if there are any lone tags nearby. The company says it takes about 10 seconds for the scan to complete. Upon finishing, you see a list detailing every single one in your vicinity with advice on what to do next.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the firmware patch when it arrives. There aren't any stringent requirements for installation. You just need a phone running Android 6 or above.
Google ends its announcement by stating it's going to be postponing the rollout of the new Android Find My Device network.
Back during I/O 2023, the company said it was going to update Android’s Find My Device feature so it, too, can sniff out third-party trackers. The launch was supposed to be this summer; however, Google has decided to wait “until Apple has implemented protections for iOS.”
We’re taking that statement to mean Apple is working on more AirTag protections. It has been a while since Apple released a security patch for its Bluetooth trackers. The last time was back in December 2022 when the tech giant added Precision Finding to iPhones to help locate unknown AirTags among other things. It functions similarly to this Android update.
Going by Google’s statement, there may be more fixes on the way. The wording is a little confusing, in our opinion. So we reached out to the company for clarification regarding future Apple patches as well as when people can expect an expansion to other tracker brands. We’ll let you know of any new information if we hear back.
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Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.