Google May Be Working On Android Bluetooth Tracker Detection

Google might be working on a native tracker detection system for Android smartphones that will look for unknown tracking devices such as those offered by Tile and Apple. The object tracker segment has gained a lot more traction with the debut of Apple's AirTags, and so have the risks of abusive usage — such as stalking — that come with these coin-sized devices. It appears that Google is working on a feature to uncover incognito trackers in the vicinity by detecting Bluetooth signatures emanating from them. However, Google hasn't officially confirmed it yet, so keep the expectations in check.

The feature's seeming development was spotted in the code of Play services, thanks to the folks over at 9to5Mac. The latest version of Play services (v22.12.13) has some interesting bits of code, with two strings, in particular, spilling the beans. The first one mentions "Unfamiliar device alerts," which actually sounds vague, with far-reaching implications. The second one narrows things down with a clear description that says "Unfamiliar Tag Detected Notification." And if there was still any room left for confusion, subsequent lines also namedrop Tile and ATag, which is most likely short for AirTags.

Google's development is still a mystery

Of course, the idea of Google working on a tracker detection system is a promising development, but the lack of specifics make it a mystery. The most important question is whether the new Android feature will need to be enabled manually to check for trackers nearby, or if it will do the job on its own in the background and send a notification when it detects an unidentified tracker. The latter sounds like the best route forward, but an always-on Bluetooth-dependent system will also take its toll on battery life. The report adds that tracking will happen over Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), the more energy-efficient version of the wireless connectivity protocol.

As mentioned above, these are just findings in the code, and Google may or may not ever release this widely as a feature. However, such a feature is the need of the hour, and that's because existing solutions for detecting unidentified trackers are not really effective, especially for Android smartphone users. Tile recently unveiled a new Scan and Secure feature to help users scan for tracking devices around them. But the scan needs to be performed manually, and the whole process takes 10 minutes to reliably perform a set of six scans. Apple has an app with a similar premise for Android phones called Tracker Detect, but unlike iPhones, there's isn't a proactive system for automatically detecting an unmarked AirTag planted on an individual.