Tile has largely dodged the criticism Apple has received for privacy concerns posed by its AirTag trackers, remaining quietly in the background as the tech giant scrambles to release features that could mitigate the risk of harassment. Now Tile is more proactive, taking similar steps to prevent fingers from pointing in its direction.
Tile is bringing a “Scan and Secure” feature to its app this week, which will allow users to scan and view any unwanted trackers lurking nearby. The functionality is similar to the application which Apple is offering to Android users and will arrive as a free add-on to the Tile app on iOS and Android.
The app should, to some extent, prevent its small tracking devices from being used for illegal activities, such as harassment or theft. But since the feature is not built into your mobile device, users have to do their part by downloading the app and running a scan. This even applies to non-Tile customers who might have nothing to do with these trackers. At least you don’t need a Tile account.
“If you’re ever concerned that someone might be tracking you, we now have a feature that allows you to determine if that tracking can be done through a Tile product. Scan and Secure, which is starting to roll out this week for anyone with Tile app (even if you don’t have a Tile account), will allow you to search for unknown Tiles or Tile-enabled devices that may be traveling with you,” Tile written in a blog post.
To use the feature, you will need Bluetooth, location services and precise location set to “On”. You can then start the scan, but you’ll have to walk or walk away from your original location before the feature starts working. When complete, the scan will spit out a report, revealing any nearby summary tracking devices.
Privacy concerns around these useful lost-item finder tools came to a head after the release of Apple’s AirTags. The company was criticized for failing to take proper safeguards into account, and within months there were reports of AirTags used for harassment. Recent reports have also shown how AirTags are used to steal cars.
AirTags’ built-in notification system intended to alert users when a mysterious tracker is following them failed in our own simulated harassment scenario. We did not receive any notifications, despite the fact that the AirTags the owner was away from the device and tracking our poor victim’s location (they knew it, FWIW) the whole time.
As part of its efforts to prevent AirTags from contributing to illegal activity, Apple now says it law enforcement partner provide matched account details if police issue a subpoena or “valid request”. It now increases a beep sound with an alert sent to your device, an addition made after AirTags have been sold on Etsy with their speakers removed.
We’re glad Tile is taking the lead from Apple, but users should still be proactive about downloading these apps. For this reason, tracking devices such as Tile and AirTags remain a serious privacy concern.