Google Introduces Unknown Tracker Alerts on Android

As digital privacy concerns continue to surge, Google has rolled out a safety net for Android users to tackle unwanted tracking. Recently launched, the Unknown Tracker Alerts feature now offers protection against stalking, especially by Apple’s AirTags.

Background on the Feature

In May 2023, during the Google I/O presentation, the tech giant disclosed its plans to launch the Unknown Tracker Alerts feature. Initially scheduled for a July rollout, the feature was keenly anticipated, primarily due to the rising instances of unauthorized AirTag usage for illicit tracking. Notably, while Apple provided measures to shield its customers from potential AirTag stalking, Android users were left vulnerable. Google’s timely response, though slightly delayed, now ensures Android users can also defend against unsolicited AirTag surveillance.

Setting Up Unknown Tracker Alerts on Android

Step-by-Step Guide

Open Settings: Navigate to Safety and Emergency> Unknown Tracker Alerts. For older Android versions (11 and below), this might be listed under Personal Safety.

  • Activate Alerts: Ensure the ‘Allow Alerts’ toggle is turned on. Note: This feature predominantly requires Bluetooth to be active.
  • Conduct a Manual Scan: While the tracking feature operates automatically, users have the option to run a manual scan using the ‘Scan Now’ button.
  • Handling an Unknown AirTag: If an AirTag is detected, information about the tracker is displayed. Users can even prompt the AirTag to play a sound for easier location, though some users have reported challenges in making the AirTag produce the alert sound. Further information, safety guidelines, and resources can be accessed from this interface.

Feature Performance and Feedback

For optimum results, it’s essential to note that the Android system won’t recognize AirTags that are close to their owner’s devices. Furthermore, some users have reported discrepancies between the manual and automatic scans, indicating that automatic scans might be slower in detecting AirTags. The frequency of these auto-scans remains ambiguous.

In case of discovery, disabling the AirTag is straightforward:

  • Twist off the silver backplate
  • Remove the battery
  • Note the serial number for potential legal actions.

Device Compatibility and Rollout

The Unknown Tracker Alerts introduction seems uneven across Android devices:

Google’s Pixels, including older models like the Pixel 4a, already support the feature.

  • Samsung devices with OneUI 5.1.1, such as the Galaxy Z Fold 5, are compatible. Yet, those on OneUI 5.1, like the Galaxy S23, aren’t.
  • Sony Xperia and OnePlus Nord N20 5G have integrated the feature. However, OnePlus Nord 2T 5G and the recent Motorola Razr+ are yet to receive it.

Regular software updates can make a difference. Users are advised to check their device settings and keep an eye on software updates.

Further Enhancements

Currently, Unknown Tracker Alerts primarily support Apple’s AirTags. But, in line with the diverse array of tracking devices available in the market, Google is poised to expand this feature’s reach to include other object trackers soon.

In conclusion, this proactive step by Google underscores the tech world’s commitment to user privacy and safety. Android 14, with its new feature, not only increases awareness of unsolicited tracking but also equips users with tools to manage and counteract potential threats.

More details about this protection mechanism can be found at Google’s official support site.

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