Google is implementing a safety update (airtag stalking alert) for Android phones to protect users from potential stalking incidents involving Bluetooth tracking devices. This move comes in response to the misuse of devices like the Apple AirTag, which were originally intended to help locate lost items. However, bad actors have been using them as tools to stalk individuals.
The new feature, called “Unknown Tracker Alerts,” automatically notifies Android users if an unknown Bluetooth tracker is detected in their vicinity. Upon receiving the notification, users can view a map showing where the device was placed on them and the path they have taken since. Additionally, there is a “Play Sound” option to help users locate the device discreetly without alerting any potential stalkers.
Currently, this safety feature only supports Apple AirTags, but Google plans to extend it to other similar products like the Tile Mate in the future.
Once an invasive tracker is located, the Android device offers a list of actions users can take. These options include contacting law enforcement for assistance or physically disabling the unwanted tracker. Disabling AirTags is a straightforward process that involves twisting the back counterclockwise to remove the cover and access the battery.
The update also includes a manual scan tool accessible from the Settings menu. The scan takes around 10 seconds to complete and provides a list of nearby tracking devices with further advice on how to handle each one.
To receive the firmware patch, Android users need a phone running Android 6 or above. However, the rollout of Google’s updated Find My Device network has been postponed until Apple implements further protections for iOS. Google hinted that more fixes and updates may be on the horizon, possibly in response to additional AirTag protections from Apple.
As of now, there is no specific timeline for expanding the protective feature to other tracker brands, but Google is likely working on further developments. The company has been in touch with Google for clarifications on future Apple patches and any plans for expanding the safety feature, and they will share updates when available.