Android becomes a tracker network with a warning about secret trackers

Google will overtake Apple in one fell swoop when it comes to the range of Bluetooth trackers. Over 1 billion Android phones help to search and find.

Sameer Samat, responsible for Android products and design at Google, will present the new features for Find My Device at Google I/O 2023. (Image: Screenshot)

Google is redesigning its “Find My Device” service. In the summer, it should not only be possible to find misplaced Android cell phones and tablets with an Internet connection but many different devices, even if they are offline at the moment. To do this, the company connects more than a billion Android devices around the world to a tracker network and immediately installs measures against secret surveillance. This was announced at Google I/O ‘s developer event on Wednesday.

Tracking runs via Bluetooth. In addition to cell phones, some headphones and laptops, as well as new versions of tracker tags that have been available for years, will be compatible with the revamped Find My Device service. So far, there are tracker networks from Apple (Airtag) and Samsung (Galaxy Smarttag) as well as various providers, each using their own smartphone apps. Each of these networks uses all participating devices in the hope that one of them will pass close to the lost item. The bigger the network, the greater the chance. So far, Apple is likely to have the edge.

But thanks to the many Android devices, Google can activate the largest tracker network in the world in one fell swoop. However, the company did not mention its own tracker tags at the I/O. Rather, it refers to tags from the manufacturer’s Tile, Chipolo, and Pebblebee.

Pebblebee and Chipolo offer matching tracker tags

The latter immediately announced three new tag models for Find My Device. The clip is intended in particular for bunches of keys and bags, the tag for larger things such as suitcases, coats, or remote controls, and the particularly thin card as an insert in wallets. All three models are rechargeable, according to Pebblebee, a charge lasts 12 (clip), 18 (day), and 8 months (card). In the US, pre-orders are priced at $30 net each, and four-packs are $100 net.

Chipolo introduces One Point for keychains ($28 net) and Card Point for wallets ($35 net). However, they are not rechargeable. The battery should last one or two years. Chipolo offers an exchange program for Card Point: If you send in the tracker tag after two years, you get a new one at half the price then valid.

Google emphasizes privacy protection

Apple’s air tags in particular have caused numerous negative headlines because they are misused for secret surveillance of the unsuspecting. Now Google and Apple are working together to counteract this. An industry standard is intended to ensure that Android and iOS warn of Bluetooth trackers. In addition to Apple and Google, manufacturers such as Tile and Samsung are on board.

Google also implements this: Android phones should automatically warn if an unknown tracker travels the same route. Apple’s Airtags and other popular models will also raise the alarm. The cell phone should then show where the tracker was with you, be able to make it beep and provide instructions on how to disable it.

Also, Android phone owners will be able to manually scan for trackers. Google emphasizes that the connections between a tracker and its owner are end-to-end encrypted. This means that nobody can evaluate third-party trackers, not even Google itself. The company would like to announce further details on the protection of privacy shortly before the market launch of the new Find My Device.


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