Find My Device app discloses information about Google’s participatory tracking network

In mid-June, we reported for the first time that Google was working on a “Find My Device network”, essentially the Android version of Apple’s “Find My network”. The channels we’ve discovered in the Google Play Services app indicate that this network will allow your phone to help you locate your and other people’s devices. Aside from the strings and a few code references to an API called “Spot,” there weren’t a lot of other details to be found in the Play Services app. Now, however, a new update to Google’s “Find My Device” app contains numerous channels referencing this feature, revealing even more information about Google’s upcoming crowdsourced tracking network.

An APK teardown can often predict features that might arrive in a future update of an app, but it’s possible that one of the features we mention here may not in a future release. Indeed, these features are currently not implemented in the live version and can be checked out at any time by the developers in a future version.

Google Find My Device app version 2.4.043_df rolled out earlier today. After decoding the APK, we discovered several strings referring to “Find My Device Network” and “Spot”. Channels reveal how users will be able to mark a device as lost or found; add “co-owners” who can also track your device (s); export, import and scan an encryption key to share your device, and more.

The Find My Device app not only shows you when the device was last spotted, but also whether it is nearby or not.

Near you right now
Last seen: %1$s. Does not seem to be near you now.
Last seen just now. Does not seem to be near you.

If you’ve lost a device, you can mark it as lost in the Find My Device app. When you have found it, you can mark it as found.

Mark as Lost
Mark as Found

Of course, once your device loses its internet connection or leaves the Bluetooth range of one of your other connected devices, it cannot be tracked only by your own devices. This is where Find My Device Network crowdsourcing comes in. When you mark the device as lost, you get “Participatory Finding Assistance”. Presumably, other nearby Android phones with Google Play services enabled i.e. Just about all Android phones will be able to silently mark the location of the lost device on Google’s Find My Device network.

Then, when a device you’ve marked as lost has been seen, you’ll receive a notification from the Find My Device app, and Google will attempt to ring the device the moment it was seen. The person who finds the lost device will not receive any information about the owner of the said device, thus protecting the privacy of the owner.

You are about to mark this device as lost. This will have the following effects:
Try marking the device as lost to get crowdsourced assistance in finding it.
You will get notifications when this device is sighted by another member of the Find My Device Network.
We will attempt to ring the device at the time of the sighting.
When this happens, the sighting user will be notified that they helped a fellow member of the network, without exposing your identity.
Shown when a device you have marked as lost is sighted.
Alerts

Once a lost device has been found, the owner can retrieve it by navigating to where it was last spotted (or meeting the person who found it). However, the owner of the device should not be the only one who can recover the lost device. The Find My Device app says that you’ll be able to add “co-owners” to your device, and those co-owners will be able to see the location of any devices you’ve marked as lost.

However, adding a co-owner requires some configuration beforehand. You will need to generate an encryption key embedded in a QR code or in a file, which you will need to store outside of the device, for example on an external storage drive, in the cloud or on paper.

Sync encryption key
Location and other functionality not available. You need to synchronize encryption key for it to work.
Export
"Find My Device Network encryption key #%1$s for %2$s generated on %3$s on %4$s.
Please store this key for future use."
Press the button to store the encryption key. We recommend storing the encryption key for future use in a safe place separately from this device, on a removable storage, on a cloud storage, or printed.

In order to add a co-owner, you will need to send them the QR code or the file containing the cryptographic key. The potential co-owner will then need to scan the QR code or import the encryption key file.

To complete the sharing process of %1$s, please let %2$s scan the QR code below, which contains a cryptographic key required for sharing.
"Import encryption key by scanning QR code with camera.
Choose this option if the encryption key is displayed on another device or printed."
Encryption key import completed
Failed to import encryption key
%1$s require(s) encryption key #%2$s
Please select import method
"Import encryption key from file.
Choose this option if you have a stored backup file of the encryption key."

To avoid abusive or accidental share requests, the other user will need to accept the owner’s share invitation. The other user can reject the invitation or, after accepting it, renounce access.

This user has yet to accept or reject your sharing invitation. If something went wrong, e.g. they not received or have lost your message, you can re-issue the invitation using the ⟳ button.
This user has yet to accept or reject your sharing invitation. If something went wrong, e.g. they have yet to scan the QR code, you can re-issue the invitation using the ⟳ button.
"Are you sure you want to relinquish this shared device?
To share this device again, you will need to get a new invitation."
Relinquish Shared Device

When you share access to a device with another person, they can track your phone’s location from the Find My Device app. If your phone is with you, it means they can see your location. Each co-owner can also see the email addresses of all other co-owners (and the owner), so you should only share a device with someone you trust.

Note: when the device is with you, you implicitly share your location with its co-owners (the users listed above).
"Only invite people you trust to share a device.
Each co-owner can see the email addresses of all the others."

If you choose to remotely wipe a device, it will be removed from the Find My Device network and reset to its factory state.

"Are you sure you want to erase this device?
This will remove it from Find My Device and the device tracking services it provides.
The device should be in range with your Android, in order to reset the device to its factory state. If the device is not in range, use the "force delete" button."
Erase Device
Force delete
"Are you sure you want to erase this device for yourself and the co-owners?
This will remove it from Find My Device and the device tracking services it provides.
The device should be in range with your Android, in order to reset the device to its factory state. If the device is not in range, use the "force delete" button."

Google has yet to confirm details of its Find My Device network, but with rumors that the Pixel 6 series will support ultra-broadband (UWB), we expect to hear about it soon.


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