Google Wants to Make It Harder for Bad Actors to Track You. Here's How
The tech giant is teaming up with Apple on alerts when an unrecognized Bluetooth device is traveling with you.
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Unknown tracker alerts, which will let you know if an unrecognized Bluetooth device appears to be traveling with you, are coming to Android phones this summer, Google said Wednesday at its annual Google I/O developer conference.
While introducing updates to its Find My Device service, Google's Sameer Samat said the company took a long time "to get this right," ensuring the new feature wouldn't compromise people's location information.
"No one else can tell where your devices are located. Not even Google," Samat said.
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With the unknown tracker alert, a person's phone will notify them if an unrecognized Bluetooth tracking tag has been moving with them. Expect the unknown tracker alert and new Find My Device features to become available later this summer, Samat said.
Google's update on the new alert comes after the search giant teamed up with rival Apple on an initiative to prevent misuse of location-tracking devices like Apple's AirTag. Earlier this month, the companies submitted a draft set of standards and best practices for the tech industry to the Internet Engineering Task Force.
The specification, which incorporates input from device manufacturers and safety and advocacy groups, makes it possible for people who use iOS or Android devices to be notified when they're being tracked through a Bluetooth device without their consent. Currently, Apple users are notified on their iPhone when an unwanted AirTag is near them, but this notification doesn't apply to Android platforms or other brands of tracker.
"Bluetooth trackers have created tremendous user benefits, but they also bring the potential of unwanted tracking, which requires industry wide action to solve," Dave Burke, Google's vice president of engineering for Android, said in a May 2 release.
Google is rumored to be developing its own tracker, reportedly called the Nest Locator Tag, though it didn't make an appearance during the company's keynote on Wednesday.
While Apple AirTags and other Bluetooth trackers are supposed to solve the age-old problem of finding missing items like keys, phones and wallets, some bad actors have been using the devices to stalk people. It's possible for someone to slip an AirTag or other tracker into your bag or car without your consent and track your location.
"A key element to reducing misuse is a universal, OS-level solution that is able to detect trackers made by different companies on the variety of smartphones that people use every day," Alexandra Reeve Givens, president of the Center for Democracy & Technology, said in the release.
Other Bluetooth device companies, like Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, Eufy Security and Pebblebee expressed support for the initiative.
Along with unknown tracker alerts and its new Find My Device services, presenters at Google I/O also revealed the Pixel Fold, Google's first foldable phone and debuted updates to its generative AI chatbot Bard. The hype around AI was substantial, with I/O presenters saying the words "AI" over 140 times within the two-hour keynote presentation.