Google is rolling out its unwanted tracker detection feature on Android devices, weeks after the company announced the feature at Google I/O 2023. Users who are running recent versions of Android will receive alerts when they are being tracked by an unknown Bluetooth-based tracker. The first device to be supported by the feature is Apple’s AirTag tracker. The search giant has also decided to pause the rollout of its upcoming Find My Device network until Apple implements protections for tracking devices on iOS.
The Android maker announced in a blog post on Thursday that it was rolling out support for automatic alerts for unknown trackers on Android devices. If your smartphone detects a nearby device that it thinks is “traveling with you”, then it will pop up an alert on your screen, allowing you see a map of where the tracker has travelled with you. You can also choose the Play sound option so you can easily find the tracker.
Android’s new tracking protection feature is similar to the protective feature introduced by Apple that warns iOS users when an AirTag that is separated from its owner is following them. When you see an alert about an unknown tracker, your Android phone will show you details about the tracker, such as the serial number of the device, or the last four digits of the phone number of the person who owns the tracker.
Once a tracker is detected, your phone will also show you how to manually shut it down and prevent it from tracking you. Similarly, you can perform a manual scan of your surroundings. This will show you a list of trackers that not connected to their owners device, but are near you. This will let you proactively disable any trackers around you.
Google says that the tracking protection features will be available on Android smartphones running Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) or newer. This indicates that the feature will be rolled out via Google Play Services, which is faster than relying on Android manufacturers to roll out updates to their phones.
Unfortunately, this also means that 2.5 percent of Android users who are running on the outdated Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and Android 4.4 (KitKat) will not be able to access the features. Apple, on the other hand, provides unwanted tracking alerts to users on iOS 14.5 or iPadOS 14.5 or newer versions.
Google also announced that it has paused the rollout of its Find My Device network until Apple implements similar protections for its customers. Earlier this year, Google and Apple announced the development of a joint specification that would allow device manufacturers to build in protection against unwanted tracking. Android’s new unknown tracking protection feature currently works only with Apple’s AirTags, but the company says it is working with other tag manufacturers to protect users from being tracked without their consent.