At Google I/O 2023, Google announced that it would launch the Find My Device network in the summer of this year. However, the company has now revealed in a new blog post that it is delaying the rollout of the Find My Device network until Apple implements measures in iOS to protect iPhone users from unwanted location tracking with devices that will use Google’s location tracking network in the future.
What is Google Find My Device network?
Products that will support the Find My Device (FMD) network in the future will be capable of being located even when they are offline or even if they lack location capabilities. For example, if you lose your smartphone somewhere and the internet connection on the phone is turned off, you can still find it using the Find My Device network. Similarly, you can use this service to search for the location of lost headphones, which typically lack connectivity features like Wi-Fi, cellular network, and GPS.
This technology will work by leveraging devices that will support the FMD network, such as Android smartphones/tablets, WearOS smartwatches, ChromeOS laptops, and upcoming Bluetooth trackers that will use this service. For example, if you lose your headphones that support the FMD network, it will search and connect with an Android phone nearby using Bluetooth and share its location, and then that phone will send the location of the headphone to the owner using Google's servers. Whether or not Samsung's SmartThings Find network becomes compatible with Google's Find My Device remains to be seen.
How will it promote unwanted location tracking?
Although the Find My Device network is a very useful feature, it also enables unwanted location tracking. For example, a person could intentionally drop a product featuring the FMD network in your handbag and then track your location through it. To prevent this unwanted location tracking, Google has implemented measures in Android where, if an Android phone detects a product with this service nearby, it will notify the user that they are being tracked.
But what if that user has an iPhone? Will the iPhone notify the user that they are being tracked? Unfortunately, no. That’s because Apple hasn’t implemented any measures in iOS to detect unwanted location tracking with devices using Google’s location tracking network. Apple and Google are working on an industry-wide tracker alert specification. But it hasn’t been finalized yet. The two companies have scheduled to complete the specification by the end of this year.
What does Apple have to do with it?
The arrival of the industry-wide specification is still months away, and unwanted location tracking using AirTags is a major concern for Android users. That's why Google has implemented custom measures in its mobile operating system to prevent Android users from being tracked with AirTags in the meantime. However, Apple hasn’t implemented any custom measures in iOS to detect unwanted location tracking with devices using Google’s upcoming location tracking network.
Unlike the iPhone maker, Google wants to wait for Apple to implement measures in iOS to prevent unwanted location tracking with devices that will be using the FMD network in the future so that iPhone users don’t suffer from the problem that Android users had. We wish Apple was as considerate as Google and implemented the necessary measures which would have enabled Google to launch the Find My Device network sooner and us to enjoy the service in our Android ecosystem.