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Unknown tracker alerts: What are they, and why are they useful?

Google is trying to get ahead of the controversy over personal trackers.

Published onMay 24, 2023

Google IO 2023 unknown tracker alert

A small but very significant announcement at Google I/O 2023 was something called unknown tracker alerts. Here we’ll explain what they are, how they work, and Google’s rollout plans.

What are unknown tracker alerts?

Android Find My Device network unknown tracker alert 1

Unknown tracker alerts are a security feature coming to Android that will let you know if someone else’s Bluetooth tracker seems to be following your location. While trackers from companies like Apple, Tile, and Samsung are popular for keeping tabs on possessions, they can also be exploited by stalkers and abusive partners, since they’re easy to hide in things like bags and vehicles.

Until now, Android hasn’t had any built-in defense against unknown trackers. Apple in fact had to release a dedicated Android app so non-iPhone users could scan for unknown AirTags. Together, Apple and Google are working on a universal notification system.

How do unknown tracker alerts work?

Android Find My Device network unknown tracker alert 2

While full details have yet to be unveiled, a few things have been confirmed. The technology is associated with an future upgrade to Find My Device, and will pop up a notification if a third-party Bluetooth tracker follows you for an unspecified distance. In some cases, at least, you’ll be able to tell what brand of tracker it is — Google’s sample media shows someone being alerted about an AirTag.

Once you open this alert, you’ll see a Find My Device map showing the tracker’s route so far, and a pop-up with further instructions, such as how to disable it. With products like AirTags, you’ll be able to trigger their onboard ringers to help locate them.

If you haven’t received a notification yet but you still suspect you’re being tracked, you’ll be able to initiate a manual scan.

Unknown tracker alerts compatible devices

Google hasn’t identified compatible Android phones, though anything capable of running the forthcoming Android 14 will probably work.

The company has likewise avoided mentioning compatible trackers beyond AirTags. The planned Find My Device update will include native support for trackers by Tile, Chipolo, and Pebblebee however, so we can safely assume you’ll get alerts for those brands.

When will unknown tracker alerts become available?

There’s no official timeline beyond “later this summer,” which seems to imply the launch of Android 14. The company could hypothetically release an interim update, given the security threat of Bluetooth trackers, but the feature may be too dependent on overhauling Find My Device.

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