Google's Android tests out new AI-driven anti-theft features in Brazil

Google has chosen Brazil to test out a new artificially intelligent anti-theft feature for all Android smartphones, making the South American nation the first to sample the new anti-crime technology.

The feature was designed so that, using artificial intelligence, the device will detect when it is stolen from its owner and, if detected, automatically lock its home screen remotely.

Phone theft has become an an epidemic in Brazil with nearly 1 million mobile phones stolen in 2022, according to the 2023 Brazilian Public Security Yearbook.

In fact, the problem became so widespread that the Brazilian government decided to create its own app that allows the owner to report a stolen phone and block access to it from another trusted device.

Google said its aim was to “use AI to protect people and their data” and that the feedback from Brazilian users is what sparked the anti-theft creation.

Google Android anti-theft feature Brazil

Google says that initially, three types of locks will be available.

The first uses AI to detect "common movement associated with theft" and automatically locks the screen. The second allows users to lock their screens remotely by entering their phone number and completing a security challenge from another device.

And, the third mode automatically locks the screen if the phone is without internet access for an extended period. Android will also require users to enter their PIN or biometrics to engage with the new feature in the event of a theft.

Android smartphones owners in Brazil, running Android OS version 10 or higher, will get to try out the new features starting in July.

Google Android anti-theft feature examples

According to Brazil’s Ministry of Justice, since the government’s ‘Celular Seguro’ app launched in December, around two million people have registered with the app, and over 50,000 phones have been blocked using it.

As part of its new AI-driven security measures, Google is also rolling out a new enhanced fraud protection pilot program to join Singapore and Thailand.

Google said the new Play Protect feature will “automatically analyze and block the installation of applications that may use sensitive permissions often used for financial fraud… and look for known permission requests that are often abused by fraudsters to intercept one-time passwords via SMS or notifications,” among other functions.

Other testing and Google initiatives

In addition to the new AI-integrated anti-theft features, Google is also testing out its new Search experience in Brazil.

Google said the new Search will allow users to cross-task by using the search bar to carry out their requests, such as starting conversations with companies via text message or scheduling local doctor and beauty appointments.

Royal Hansen, Vice President of Privacy, Safety, and Security Engineering at Google, described how the company is using AI to increase the security of Google products.

“Gmail’s AI-powered defenses, for instance, automatically block 99.9% of threats from reaching inboxes. To help us continue these important efforts, we're expanding our Privacy, Safety, and Security team to Brazil, where we’ll open a second engineering center in 2026,” Hansen said.

The Alphabet-owned company said its Brazil focus will also include continuing the already established Google programs in Brazil, such as ‘Google for Startups,’ free skills courses in AI, Cloud, and Cybersecurity, and other socio-economic improvement programs, such as reading initiatives, and job placement for graduates.

The new features will become available to other countries later this year.

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