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Tile this week began rolling out a new feature called Scan and Secure, which gives users the ability to find out if there's a Tile or Tile-enabled device traveling with them. The app feature is Tile's first anti-stalking product, and it follows a number of reports of Bluetooth-enabled tracking devices being used with malicious intent.
Scan and Secure is available on both Android and iOS, and users don't have to have a Tile account or be part of the Tile Network to use it. They simply need the latest version of the Tile app. For the feature to work properly, users need to turn on Bluetooth, Location or Location Services, and Precise Location.
The feature is designed so that users can choose when and where to scan for unwanted devices. In a blog post, Tile noted that it was designed this way in consultation with experts, to ensure it supports potential victims of intimate partner violence.
"If someone is a victim of domestic abuse and they are preparing to leave their partner for example, it's helpful to be able to choose the time and place that's safest for them to proactively check if there is a device on them that could track their location," Erica Olsen, director for the National Network to End Domestic Violence's Safety Net Project, said in the Tile blog post. "Putting the control in their hands is an important part of increasing safety."
To start a scan, a user selects the Scan and Secure tab and follows the on-screen instructions. It requires a maximum of 10 minutes of uninterrupted time to run completely and achieve the most accurate results.
The user will have to walk or move a certain distance away from their original location -- walking around the house won't provide enough distance. Tile notes that if a user chooses to start a scan while driving, they should park in a safe place before reviewing the results. Additionally, Tile advises against using the feature on public transportation, so it doesn't accidentally pick up other people's Tiles.
At the end of the scan, the app displays the results. Tile offers Safety Tips to learn more about what to do next if the scan did detect suspicious Tiles or Tile-enabled devices. The company says it will work with law enforcement through a properly issued court order to identify the owner of a Tile suspected of being nefarious. Tile also said the new product is "phase one of a long term approach" to safety.
The increase in small, Bluetooth-enabled devices has led to a spate of local and national news reports about stalking incidents and auto theft attempts involving these kinds of trackers. They typically involve Apple AirTags, given that AirTags have built-in features to alert unknowing tracking victims. AirTags are designed to make a sound if they are separated from the Apple device that is registered to track them. Additionally, if a person owns an iPhone, they should receive an alert from iOS' built-in Find My app letting them know an unknown AirTag is moving with them.
Still, the rise in reports of unwanted tracking led Apple to announce further steps its taking to address the issue. Meanwhile, there are more significant steps Apple could take to protect consumers, as Adrian Kingsley-Hughes recently noted on ZDNet. Meanwhile, as ZDNet's Michael Gariffo noted, other items with similar tracking capabilities -- including products from Samsung or even devices to track lost pets -- could also be used for malicious purposes.