Google rolls out anti-stalking measures for AirTag and other Bluetooth trackers

It’s available for anyone with an Android 6.0 or higher phone.

Chris Velazco / Engadget

Google’s anti-stalking measures are rolling out. The company’s unknown tracker alerts and other safety measures, announced at Google I/O in May, should start appearing on Android 6.0+ devices beginning today. The initiative aims to reduce the unfortunate rise in digital stalking that materialized soon after Apple’s AirTag launch in 2021.

Android’s unknown tracker alerts tell you if an unknown Bluetooth tracker is traveling with you but not its owner. If your Android phone notifies you about a discovered tracking accessory, you can tap on the alert to learn more about it, including a map of where it traveled with you and (in some cases) a serial number and info about the device’s owner. You can also tap a “Play sound” option to make the accessory chirp to help you locate it. If it turns out to be something suspicious, it will provide instructions on deactivating it so its owner will no longer receive updates. (In the case of AirTag, that means twisting its top off and removing its battery.)

The Android rollout also allows you to manually scan for nearby trackers rather than waiting for an alert. Once your phone receives the update, navigate to Settings > Safety & Emergency > Unknown Tracker Alerts, and select the “Scan now” button. Google says the manual search only takes about ten seconds, and if it finds one, you’ll see the same options as if you received an automatic alert.

Google and Apple are partnering to address concerns about unwanted tracker stalking; they’re working on an industry standard that will enable other third-party trackers to work with the system. In addition, Google announced today that its Find My Device network (equivalent to Apple’s Find My), also announced at Google I/O, is delayed. Google decided to wait for Apple to implement its full unknown tracking protections into iOS before rolling out the new feature.

Note that Google’s anti-stalking measures may reduce the effectiveness of following tracked stolen items on a map since enterprising thieves can soon quickly discover hidden trackers, no matter which phone they use. However, it’s understandable that reducing stalking would override that concern in Google and Apple’s security balancing act.

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