How to manually scan for unknown tracker devices in Android

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 11, 2023
Google 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.

android unknown tracker alerts

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:

  1. Turn on Bluetooth on the Android device, if it is not enabled.
  2. Open Settings and go to Safety and Emergency.
  3. Locate Unknown tracker alerts on the page and open the option.
  4. 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.

Now You: what is your take on these trackers?

How to manually scan for unknown tracker devices in Android
Article Name
How to manually scan for unknown tracker devices in Android
Android users may run manual scans for unknown tracking devices on their devices to make sure they are not tracked.
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  1. Frank said on August 13, 2023 at 8:32 pm

    It seems that protecting stuff like your bike against theft using a tracker no longer makes sense as the thieves will be warned?

  2. Anonymous said on August 12, 2023 at 6:37 pm

    OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G – phones software is fully up-to-date with Android 13 – no such option under ‘Safety and Emergency’?!

  3. sending my SS# to ronald mcdonald said on August 12, 2023 at 10:53 am

    “Why would anyone want to put a tracker in your bag”

    Why would anyone want to put a letter into an envelope? All mail should be sent via postcard, clearly. Especially to your bank and other financial institutions!

    1. aolbfs said on August 13, 2023 at 7:17 pm

      If they can track your actual movements, they can hack you and create a record of false movements that could be used to convict you of a crime you did not commit.

  4. TelV said on August 12, 2023 at 10:31 am

    Why would anyone want to put a tracker in your bag, clothes or other item that you are carrying? Sounds to me like smartphone users are becoming paranoid in the extreme if they’re worrying about stuff like that.

    It doesn’t bother me if somebody want to track me. Sure go ahead: doesn’t bother me at all. I lead a pretty mundane and boring existence anyway, so nothing to gain for anybody.

  5. Anonymous said on August 12, 2023 at 3:43 am

    I feel like an idiot. Android 11, there’s no such menu. Not even an emergency menu to speak of.
    I should’ve bought an iPhone, this is all software and even their older phones benefit from things like this, but on Android you need a brand new phone or a flagship and it’s fucked up. You don’t even get satellite calls.

  6. Jonathan said on August 12, 2023 at 1:50 am

    I have a Pixel 6a running Android 13, and that option does not exist.

    1. pikuseru rokuei said on August 12, 2023 at 9:19 am

      Hey, fellow 6a user.
      Mine does, I’m not sure if it did added after this month’s update?

  7. anon said on August 11, 2023 at 11:50 pm

    On the F-Droid app store, a free app exists called AIrGuard which monitors trackers and lets you make them beep but doesn’t let you disable them.

    1. Andy Prough said on August 12, 2023 at 2:31 pm

      That’s probably best, since once they start beeping the ideal way to ‘disable’ one would be with a hammer.

  8. John G. said on August 11, 2023 at 11:00 pm

    And why not an option to disable these kind of trackers? Idiocracy at its best.

  9. Gavin B said on August 11, 2023 at 8:49 pm

    Keyword source article says:
    “… roll out to Android 6.0+ users this month”

  10. Tachy said on August 11, 2023 at 5:27 pm


    Perhaps you should not ass/u/me that all your readers are the types that just have to have the newest version of every phone that comes out.

    Any article such as this one should include information on what android version your referring to.

    I’m still using a Moto G6 and it’s been running Android 9 since the day I got it and it does not look like that screenshot.

    It’s absolutely beautiful as the case is made from the same glass as the screen.

    1. svim said on August 11, 2023 at 8:51 pm

      Valid point but this is a relatively new feature that only recently has been added into the Android Settings menu. Only currently supported Android versions will be able to receive this, expecting no longer supported versions to magically get this feature is a bit of a stretch.
      9 stopped getting any active support from Google or Motorola well over a year ago so expecting new Android features to be added to your dated Moto G6 isn’t practical.

      If you want a similar feature on your G6, try installing this Tracker Detect app from the Play Store:
      It’s a third-party utility from Apple and allows you to scan for nearby trackers. It’s only manual, on-demand scans so no feature to automatically and continuously run in the background so some see this as a drawback. Personally I prefer it to be a manual scan service and not waste my phone’s background system resources.

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