As always, Apple was able to take an existing technology or feature and make it sound like the most innovating thing that its rivals will then start copying. Although the ability to locate trackers using other people’s devices nearby has long been used by the likes of Tile, Apple’s AirTags and upgraded Find My network has unsurprisingly garnered much more attention, both good and bad. Regardless of that context, it seems that Google will also follow in Apple’s footsteps and upgrade its Find My Device network to turn every Android device nearby into a homing beacon for your lost phone.
Find My Device isn’t actually new, but, just like Apple’s earlier version, it has very limited scope and functionality. Specifically, it can only find devices signed into Google accounts, which limits it to phones, tablets, and Chromebooks, among other things. It also only works if the lost device has an Internet connection; otherwise, its location information may go stale.
XDA discovered that the latest Google Play Services APK hides text that suggests an important upgrade to the framework. It refers to an option to allow your phone to help locate other people’s devices, which is pretty much the same crowdsourced system that Tile and Apple are using.
Although it’s not exactly new technology, this crowdsourced Find My Device might take on a different spin when it is Google that’s doing it. The company hasn’t exactly been famous for its privacy practices, and this location-based system will most likely raise not a few red flags among privacy advocates. Recent exposés accuse Google of continuing to track users’ location even after they have opted out of it.
It is too early to judge such a feature that hasn’t even been acknowledged yet, but privacy-minded users might want to keep an eye out for its arrival. This discovery also raises the possibility that Google will launch its own trackers, which will probably stir the privacy hornet’s nest all the more.