Google is starting to introduce a rapid Air Raid Alerts system for Android phones in Ukraine, the company announced on Thursday. The new feature is the tech giant’s latest update on its response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
“Tragically, millions of people in Ukraine now rely on air strike alerts to try to get to safety. At the request, and with the help, of the government of Ukraine, we’ve started rolling out a rapid Air Raid Alerts system for Android phones in Ukraine,” said Kent Walker, the president of global affairs at Google, in a blog post about the announcement.
Walker said the rollout is supplemental to Ukraine’s existing air raid alert systems and is based on alerts already being delivered by the Ukrainian government.
In a series of tweets, Google’s vice president of engineering, Dave Burke, explained that the system leverages the company’s low latency alert mechanism that it built for earthquake alerts. Burke also noted that the system is beginning to roll out starting today and that it will target all Android phones in Ukraine over the next few days.
Google says the feature will work on phones with Google Play Services that are running Android 5 or later, and no action is required from most users to receive the feature. It will roll out over the coming days and should reach most devices in the country over the next few days.
For the feature to work, the device location setting must be “on” and the phone will need internet connectivity to update.
Users can choose to turn the feature on or off either the Safety & Emergency or Location Services settings on Android 12 devices, and in the Location Services setting on older Android versions, as follows:
- Android 12: Settings > Safety & emergency > Ukraine air raid alerts
- Android 5-12: Location > Location Services > Ukraine air raid alert
In the same blog post, Google also announced that it will continue its work to limit recommendations for a number of Russian state-funded media outlets across its platforms. The company is also pausing most of its commercial activities in Russia.
“Following our announcement last week that we paused Google ads in Russia, we’ve now paused the vast majority of our commercial activities in Russia — including ads on our properties and networks globally for all Russian-based advertisers, new Cloud sign ups, the payments functionality for most of our services, and monetization features for YouTube viewers in Russia.”
Google says that its free services, including Search, Gmail and YouTube, are still operating in Russia. The company says it will continue to monitor developments.
Additional reporting: Sarah Perez