Google's Find My Device will use billions of Android devices to pinpoint lost items
Google says it cannot view encrypted device location dataBy Rob Thubron
In brief: Google's I/O event earlier this week wasn't all about Pixel devices and AI. The company also announced the expansion of its Find My Device platform, allowing users to locate more types of lost devices. It will also use Android devices owned by others to ping missing items, and there will be unknown tracker alerts to warn someone if they're carrying an unknown tracker.
Google's Sameer Samat announced that the company would be adding headphones, earbuds, tablets, and other product categories to the Find My Device service over the coming months. Some of these are already supported, but more will be added.
An interesting new update to Find My Device will utilize the billion+ network of Android devices around the world to ping lost devices and get an accurate reading of their location.
That might concern some users, but Samat said that the Android-device network has been designed in a privacy-preserving way. He added that Google cannot view encrypted device location data.
Samat also discussed the widespread issue of tracking technologies being used for malicious purposes, especially stalking. Google's unknown tracker alerts, coming later this summer, can identify when a Bluetooth tracking device is traveling with someone, and it works with different tracker brands, including Apple AirTags and Tile devices.
Earlier this month, Apple and Google partnered for an initiative to create an industry specification for tracking devices. The aim is to address the stalking problem by making Bluetooth trackers compatible across platforms.
Tile previously introduced an anti-stalking feature called Scan and Secure for its Bluetooth trackers, enabling Tile app users to quickly scan for and detect nearby Tiles and Tile-enabled devices that may be traveling with them. But criminals could use the feature to check if the item they'd stolen had a concealed tracker placed on it. To prevent this, Tile added an Anti-Theft Mode, which makes Tile devices invisible to Scan and Secure. It sounds like the perfect tool for stalkers, though Tile has threatened a $1 million fine for anyone who uses its trackers for this purpose.
There were plenty of other items on show at Google I/O, including a translator that edits a speaker's lips to sync them with the new language, the Pixel devices, and many AI-related announcements.
Masthead: Yuri Samoilov