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Google's Find My Device network enhances device tracking with offline location services and Bluetooth tracker support, prioritizing privacy

Google's Find My Device network is a significant upgrade to the existing service, set to leverage a crowdsourced network to help users locate their devices, even when offline. This new network, announced at Google IO 2023, is expected to launch imminently, potentially revolutionizing the way lost objects and phones are found. It will work with Bluetooth trackers like Tile Pro and Google AirTags, utilizing billions of Android devices globally to enhance its tracking capabilities. The service will support various Bluetooth trackers and devices like Pixel Buds, Sony, and JBL headphones, making it more comprehensive than Apple's Find My network.

The Find My Device network will allow users to locate their devices even when they are offline, using help from other Android devices silently relaying the approximate location of the lost device. If the lost device is nearby, users can get visual cues in the Find My Device app as they move closer to it. Google's Pixel 8 phones will have an added advantage of being locatable even when powered off. Starting in May, the network will also support Bluetooth tracker tags from various brands like Chipolo, Pebblebee, Motorola, Jio, and Eufy, allowing users to track items like wallets or keys. The network will also offer the option to share access to tags with multiple users.

To enhance security, the network will support unwanted tracker alerts across Android and iOS, limiting the frequency of location updates to prevent potential misuse. This feature is designed to deter stalkers and ensure user privacy. The network also limits the number of times you can get a tracking tag’s location in an added effort to deter stalkers. Dave Kleidermacher, Android’s VP of security and privacy, tells The Verge that this shouldn’t affect how most people use the tags.

Google's research found that lost items are typically left behind in stationary spots. For example, you lose your keys at the cafe, and they stay at the table where you had your morning coffee. Meanwhile, a malicious user is often trying to engage in real-time tracking of a person. By applying rate limiting and throttling to reduce how often the location of a device is updated, the network continues to be helpful for finding items, like your lost checked baggage on a trip, while helping mitigate the risk of real-time tracking.

Google is tapping into a wide range of gadgets to help make its network more useful. Headphones from JBL and Sony will also get software updates so they can be located using the network. And if your item is lost at home and you have a Nest hub, you’ll get information about how far away or close it is to the Nest device.

The upgraded Find My Device network supports devices running Android 9 or later, which is... a lot of them, given we’re anticipating Android 15’s launch this summer. The network is rolling out first to the US and Canada before expanding to Android devices “around the world”.

In conclusion, Google's Find My Device network is a significant step forward in tracking lost devices, offering a comprehensive solution that leverages the power of Android's vast user base. With its advanced features and commitment to user privacy, this new network promises to be a game-changer in the world of device tracking.

Google's Find My Device network is a significant upgrade to the existing service
Google's Find My Device network is a significant upgrade to the existing service

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