Back in May, Google and Apple jointly announced that they would work together to prevent unwanted tracking from AirTags and similar devices. The rollout starts today: Android version 6.0 and higher now reports unknown tracker notifications. Currently, the whole thing only works with Apple’s AirTags. According to Google, however, it is working with tag manufacturers to extend this recognition to other tracking tags as well.
The feature works with unknown Bluetooth trackers that have been separated from their owner. As soon as your own cell phone determines that the tracker is regularly within range, the Android device issues a notification. If you tap on the notification, you get more information about the tracker and a map. It shows where the position of the tracking tag matched your own position. There is also a “Play Sound” option, which will make the tag play a sound. This makes it easier to locate without the tracker owner noticing.
Additionally, if you bring the tag near the back of your smartphone, it may also give away its serial number or other information about its owner. This includes, for example, information such as the last four digits of their phone number or how to completely disable the tracker so that the owner no longer receives future location updates.
This is all to prevent stalking through the use of AirTags and AirTag-like trackers. Google has also developed a manual scanning feature. It allows to scan your surroundings for trackers without having to wait for an alert. To search manually, go to “Settings > Safety & emergency > Unknown tracker alerts” in your Android device’s settings. Then tap on “Scan now”, which takes about 10 seconds.
Finally, Google announced that it is holding back the rollout of its Find My Device network until Apple implements similar protections in iOS. A common specification for unwanted tracker notifications should be ready by the end of the year. After that, the Find My Device network is scheduled to go live.