Tile announces AirTag-like privacy provisions but do they go far enough?

Tile Performance Pack Lifestyle
Tile Performance Pack Lifestyle (Image credit: Tile)

What you need to know

  • Tile is introducing changes that it hopes will keep people safe.
  • Tile item trackers, like AirTags, can be used to stalk people.
  • People will be able to use the Tile app to check for unknown trackers.

Tile has announced new privacy measures that it hopes will protect people from being tracked without their knowledge using one of its accessories.

Following the airing of a number of privacy concerns relating to Apple's AirTag, it was surely only a matter of time before Tile also came under fire for the way its item trackers could be used to stalk people. Apple has made changes to the way AirTags work and has more planned, while Tile has today announced changes to its own system.

Dubbed Scan and Secure, Tile's new system can be used to check if an item tracker is nearby, with people able to use the Tile app even without an account to carry out the scan.

To that end, if you ever feel concerned that someone could be tracking you, we now offer a feature that allows you to determine if that tracking could be through a Tile product. Scan and Secure, which starts rolling out this week to anyone with the Tile app (even if you do not have a Tile account), will enable you to scan for unknown Tiles or Tile-enabled devices that may be traveling with you.

The system will check for "unknown Tiles" that could be in the process of being used to follow a person without their knowledge, although it doesn't quite offer the same level of protection as AirTags does. For starters, Tile says that people will need to move or drive around to allow the scan to work properly — something that is far from ideal for a variety of reasons.

The scan requires you to walk/move or drive a certain distance away from your original location (the feature does not work properly if you circle around one location, such as walking inside your home). Your safety while completing the Scan and Secure feature is very important to us. Please use caution while walking/moving/driving when using the feature. If you choose to drive during the scan, please avoid looking at your phone while driving.

One obvious issue here, and one that affects AirTags if you're an Android user, is that the Scan and Secure feature doesn't run in the background and people must manually kick a scan off before anything will be detected. Still, it's better than what Tile offered before which amounted to nothing — so that's progress!

Notably, Tile says that this is "phase one of a long erm approach" so more improvements could be coming in the future.

Scan and Secure is Tile's first step towards giving people more control over their safety and we are committed to continuing to advance this feature going forward. We'll work with experts and advocacy organizations on an ongoing basis to further evolve our safety features and ensure we keep privacy and safety at the forefront of everything we do.

For now, the best item tracker is still the AirTag for various reasons — especially in terms of keeping iPhone owners safe.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.