The app, which Apple promised earlier this year, closes a potential privacy loophole that made it more difficult for Android users to detect rogue AirTags. While the AirTag trackers do play a tone when they’re separated from their registered owners after eight and 24 hours, it wasn’t a total solution for Android users.
As well as the warning tones, iPhone users were already able to perform searches for an AirTag that doesn’t belong to them, via the Find My ecosystem, the phone itself continuously searches in the background for tags registered to other people.
The Tracker Detect app doesn’t offer complete feature parity with iOS, as it only enables Android enables users to manually search for AirTags and any other Find My-enabled trackers. It’s not useful for people looking to keep tabs on AirTags trackers registered to their own Apple ID.
Now available on the Google Play Store, the app description says: “Tracker Detect looks for item trackers that are separated from their owner and that are compatible with Apple’s Find My network. These item trackers include AirTag and compatible devices from other companies. If you think someone is using AirTag or another device to track your location, you can scan to try to find it.”
Apple says the new app (first reported on by CNET) adds another facet of protection for Android users concerned that a Find My-enabled tracker may have been planted on them without their knowledge. If a tracker is discovered by the app and is deemed to have moved with a person for ten minutes, the app users will be able to make it play a sound in order to pinpoint its location. Instructions are then provided to disable it completely.
An Apple spokesperson told Trusted Reviews: “AirTag provides industry leading privacy and security features and today we are extending new capabilities to Android devices. Tracker Detect gives Android users the ability to scan for an AirTag or supported Find My enabled item trackers that might be traveling with them without their knowledge. We are raising the bar on privacy for our users and the industry, and hope others will follow.”
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Apple has worked hard to shore up the defences of the AirTag trackers since their launch in early 2021. Early reviews pointed out the ease of using the coin-shaped Tile rivals for nefarious means, either through serendipitously stalking or by controlling partners. It should be pointed out that these issues are shared by trackers from other manufacturers, not just Apple AirTags.
A series of updates this year have boosted the AirTag privacy, but even on iPhone, they’re not impervious to illicit activity. Last week police in Canada revealed they are investigating a spate of car thefts in which AirTags were serendipitously planted on high-end vehicles to enable them to be tracked to a location. From there, key reprogramming tools can be used to drive off with the vehicles.