Google may be releasing a Bluetooth tracker detection feature for Android phones, 9to5Google reports. The feature would ostensibly notify Android users when an Apple AirTag or Tile is traveling with them without their approval.
9to5Google discovered the feature by examining the APK of a new app Google recently uploaded to the Play Store. As always, unreleased code does not guarantee that a feature may be publicly released.
Ever since Apple announced its Bluetooth tracking devices at its “Spring Loaded” event last April, experts have warned that AirTags could be abused by stalkers and abusers. Once AirTags went on sale, that turned out to be true, with numerous reports of women finding AirTags in their cars or in their handbags. The reports resulted in significant nationwide backlash that pushed the company to roll out additional safety features. With its iOS 15.4 update this month, Apple added a warning for AirTag users upon setup that the devices should be used for tracking items, not people. That warning also states that AirTags are linked to a person's Apple ID, and if they are found to be using the devices to track people without their knowledge, their information will be visible to police. The company is also working on other new features to curb the use of AirTags in shady or outright criminal ways.
But those features have never worked as well with Android phones as iPhones. Both Apple and Tile have released apps for Android that users can download to receive similar notifications, but this, of course, requires users to install an app to receive alerts. If Google ships the Android feature, the notifications will be automatic when users update their phones.
However, whether Google intends to do so – or if it does, when — is unclear. Google did not respond to Protocol’s request for comment. However, the company often rolls out software features at its annual I/O event for developers, where we expect to more about the next version of Android. This year, Google I/O will be May 11-12.