Tile hopes a $1 million fine will stop stalkers from making their trackers undetectable

Tile launched its “Scan and Secure” feature in March of last year. Now users can make their own devices invisible for this feature in exchange for users’ biometrics. Photo: Wirestock Creators (Shutterstock)

After months of reports of Bluetooth tracking devices like Apple’s AirTags being used to track people for miles, Tile, one of the first companies to popularize these trackers, is adding a feature that makes its devices “untraceable” for unwanted devices nearby.

Oh no, of course, the company doesn’t just let all of its users toss a tracker in their ex’s purse. To prevent any rude use of these now “invisible” tracking devices, the company promises to turn over all data to the police and then fine convicted stalkers $1 million.

Tile, which is now owned by family-owned company Life360 after an acquisition in 2021, announced in a press release Thursday that users can enable “anti-theft mode” on any Tile tracker, including other products that use its use tracking technology. This prevents the device from being recognized by the company’s in-app feature, which allows users to search for nearby Tile devices. This new feature is driven by “customer demand” citing an increase in thefts and robberies.

However, the company failed to mention that tracking device thefts in particular are on the rise. Instead, it cited a nearly decade-old United Nations report on drugs and crime and a 2022 report on the rise in property crime from the Council on Criminal Justice, a nonprofit research group. It’s been barely a year since Tile added its “Scan and Secure” tool to check if you have any unwanted trackers on you.

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In an email statement to Gizmodo, a Life360 spokesperson said they had no information about Tile thefts because “theft isn’t always reported to Tile,” but they claimed customers feared theft for a “theft solution.” would have asked robberies are increasing.

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Apple has weathered a hurricane of criticism and is now complaining that its AirTags have been used by stalkers to track victims. Apple has features on its iPhones that should alert users when an unknown AirTag is on them (you’ll have to download a whole separate app on Android phones), but Tile is very open about the fact that nearby smartphones don’t notified when they do I’m traveling with an unknown tracker. The company argued that these notifications “can tell thieves that there is a tracker on the stolen item, allowing them to remove it and making the item less likely to be recovered.”

To enroll in anti-theft mode, users must submit a biometric scan and provide government-issued ID. Life360’s spokesperson said that all user information, including ID, is stored by Berbix, a third-party company that performs ID verification. The company said it does not sell or monetize the data and will destroy biometric information “when the information is no longer needed for verification and fraud detection purposes.”

Additionally, Tile and Life360 said they will actively stand ready to release users’ personal information to law enforcement “even without a subpoena.”

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Back in 2021, reports showed that Life360 was known for selling users’ location data to data brokers, regardless of whether they were families or children. In fact, the company is keen on selling user data to “virtually anyone who wants to buy it.” Last year, the company announced it would stop selling precise user location data.

This probably won’t get victims and potential victims to sleep any better, but what makes this all the stranger is the $1 million fine that’s promised to be used against “any person convicted in court for being… used Tile devices to illegally track an individual without their knowledge or consent.”

For Tile, proactive notifications from trackers like AirTags were “insufficient” for victim protection, which is partially true. However, rather than develop a new means of preventing this incredibly dangerous form of technological stalking, the company is simply throwing its hands up. Life360 CEO Chris Hulls called this a “choice,” specifically between making their devices visible or invisible. If they want to “sleep a little easier at night,” users should make these devices invisible to other users.

In a Medium blog published on Wednesday, Hulls said her own testing of AirTags showed devices taking hours or days to find unwanted trackers.

“The bottom line is that a good tracking device is also a good stalking device,” he wrote, further claiming that it’s “nearly impossible” to make both accurate and timely alerts for unwanted trackers.

Rather than making unwanted trackers easily identifiable, Hulls says the real solution is to “implement safeguards like ID registration of all location-enabled devices.”

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So according to Tile, and more broadly Apple, our only option is to bind every single location-enabled device, whether it’s a phone or smartwatch, with your personal ID. Otherwise, all potential victims will have to sit in hell wondering if a malicious actor is attaching an unwanted Bluetooth tracker to their person.