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Google delays its upgraded Find My Device network until Apple can add safety alerts


Google is delaying the broad expansion of its Find My Device feature and says it’s doing so with personal safety in mind. “User safety and the prevention of unwanted location tracking is a top priority for Android,” said Erik Kay of Google. in a blog post today. “At this time, we have made the decision to suspend the launch of the Find My Device network until Apple has implemented protections for iOS.”

Do you need to catch up? In its I/O 2023 keynote, Google revealed plans to leverage millions of current Android devices to help track their lost devices, including phones, compatible accessories, and a new wave of Bluetooth item trackers. If that sounds similar to Apple’s Find My network, that’s because the execution is very similar. The original plan was to roll out this more comprehensive Find My Device network over the summer.

But now, Google has decided to wait until Apple can implement unknown tracker alerts natively in iOS. Apple already does this for its own AirTags, and eventually those warnings will also be able to identify trackers that work with Google’s Find My Device network. But we’re not there yet, and it seems Google doesn’t want new trackers released until the two major mobile platforms can discover them.

Google isn’t giving a new timeline for when the more powerful tracking network will go live; Meanwhile, accessory maker Chipolo has already had to delay its first compatible trackers.

Speaking of unknown tracker alerts, Google says that starting this month, many Android phones will start warning users when an unknown AirTag is detected to be separated from its owner and traveling with them. In other words, if someone is secretly trying to track your location without your permission, you should get a helpful warning. This is a native system level indicator that will not require downloading any separate app like the one Apple released earlier.

“You can tap the notification to get more information about the tracker and see a map of where the tracker was seen traveling with you,” Kay wrote. “You can also tap ‘Play Sound’ and the tracker will make a noise to help you locate it without the tracker owner knowing.”

You will also be able to manually scan for nearby trackers whenever you want:

To do this, go to Settings → Security & Emergency → Unknown Tracker Alerts and tap on the “Scan Now” button. It will take about 10 seconds for your device to complete a manual scan and then you will see a list of trackers that are currently determined to be near you and separate from its owner’s device.

Perhaps the best thing about this new privacy and security measure is that it will be widely available for phones running Android 6, yes, up to Marshmallow, and later. That’s because Google is adding unknown tracker alerts via a software update to Google Play Services. So even if your phone no longer receives major versions of Android, you should still be able to take advantage of this new protection.

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