How to manually scan for unknown tracker devices in Android
When Apple launched AirTags, small devices that Apple users can use for tracking purposes, some heralded the company for launching another useful feature. Others, including many privacy advocates, noted that these devices could also be used to track the movement of others.
To address this, Apple introduced unknown accessory detected notifications on iPhones and iPads to inform users if an unknown AirTag device is in the vicinity. In other words, if someone managed to put a tracker in your bag, clothes or other item that you are carrying, you are informed by your Apple devices about it.
In 2023, Google and Apple announced a new specification that standardizes unauthorized tracking detection and alerts on Android and iOS platforms.
Google published a blog post on its official The Keyword blog that informed customers about the implementation on Android. Unknown Tracker Alerts is a built-in feature of Android that may display alerts automatically if an unknown tracker is detected.
For this to work, Bluetooth needs to be enabled on the Android device and the feature needs to have been implemented. The notification informs the Android user about the unknown tracker in the range of the Android device's Bluetooth scanner.
Android allows users to take action, for instance by learning more about the tracker or learning how to physically disable the Bluetooth tracker. Disabling the tracker blocks the owner of the device from receiving location updates in the future from the tracker.
Android users may also run manual scans for trackers; this is a useful option, especially if Bluetooth is not enabled all the time on the device.
Here are the steps required to run a manual scan for devices:
- Turn on Bluetooth on the Android device, if it is not enabled.
- Open Settings and go to Safety and Emergency.
- Locate Unknown tracker alerts on the page and open the option.
- Tap on the "scan now" button to run a manual scan.
You are informed if the scan detects a nearby tracker and get the same notification and options offered when an automatic scan detects a tracker.
Once finished, you may turn off Bluetooth again, if it was turned off before starting the scan.
The feature detects Apple AirTags devices only at this point in time according to Google. Plans to extend identification have been announced.
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