Tile says a new anti-theft feature, rolling out starting today, makes its Bluetooth trackers invisible to anti-stalking detection like the Scan and Secure feature in the app. By disabling detection abilities, it could be more effective in recovering something very important: like a briefcase containing a million dollars in cash or a gaming carry case that has a PS4 with P.T. preinstalled.
But that also makes it invisible to everyone, so Tile will require users who want to enable the feature to register their photo ID, consent to Tile working with law enforcement without a subpoena, and agree to get slammed by a $1 million fine if convicted for misusing the tracker criminally.
This blog post from Tile explains how it works and outlines a three-step verification process similar to Apple’s State-ID registration to enable Anti-Theft.
- Front to back ID comparison
- Selfie to ID comparison
- Liveness check
The director of PR and communications for Life360 (which acquired Tile in 2021), Kristi Collura, writes in an email to The Verge that Tile is using an unnamed third-party vendor who specializes in verification to confirm users’ IDs and their submitted multi-angle selfies.
Trackers have become even more accessible to the public in recent years, confronting everyone with the reality of the ways the tech could be abused. Last year, Apple updated its AirTag trackers to implement anti-stalking measures where it makes sounds and alerts peoples’ iPhones when moving with individuals who are not the owner.
“To better deter stalking, we need to increase the likelihood that stalkers are caught and then dramatically up the consequences when they are,” Life360 CEO Chris Hulls writes in a Medium blog about the new feature. In his post, Hulls says trackers like Apple’s AirTags and Tile aren’t great at preventing theft due to criminals being able to detect and discard them using means designed for victims of stalking to counter.
But the new measures Tile is implementing, which will need to screen submissions thoroughly enough to detect false identities or abusers pretending to be their victims, are yet to be proven. According to another Tile blog post about Anti-Theft Mode, “To fix the stalking problem at scale while also keeping Bluetooth trackers effective for the use cases that matter most to users, we must make industry-wide changes.” Asked about Tile’s policies, Collura outlined the same suggestions via email, writing:
We received feedback from advocacy groups that an app-specific scanning solution does not solve the problem of stalking, as it puts the onus on victims to check and be aware of every solution in the market.
To meaningfully address stalking with technology, Tile views the solution as being greater, including implementing safeguards like:
Require all location-enabled devices that are small enough to be planted on a person— LTE GPS devices in particular—be registered using a real name.
Ban all devices that are specifically marketed for the secret tracking of people.
Make stalking a first-time felony offense
Even if they are enough to address the issue, those suggested safeguards don’t yet exist, putting the safety of untold numbers of people in the hands of Tile and its third-party vendor. Its proposed fine is an after-the-fact remedy following a criminal conviction — cold comfort if someone eventually finds out they were targeted using the devices. The rollout of Anti-Theft Mode begins today, and Tile says it should be available to all users “in the coming weeks.”