Stalking victims sue Tile and Amazon for negligence over tracking tech
Plaintiffs say recent partnership has 'magnified' danger and allege bypass of anti-stalking feature is allowed
A lawsuit filed this week alleges the integration between Amazon location-tracking network Sidewalk and Tile's trackers and apps has "magnified" the danger posed to stalking victims "exponentially," and claims the vendors have been negligent in the implementation of safeguards.
The would-be class action complaint was filed by stalking victims Shannon and Stephanie Ireland Gordy against Tile, Inc, its parent firm Life360 Inc, and Amazon.com this week in the northern district of California. It accuses the companies of negligence, defective design, unjust enrichment, intrusion, and multiple privacy law violations.
The pair were stalked, via a Tile Tracker, following a breakup between Stephanie Ireland Gordy and her previous partner in October 2016. The suit says the stalker broke into her vehicle and hid a Tile Slim in the console, and would follow the pair while they were holiday, during work commutes, and even after they moved house. The suit alleges the "stalker carried a gun" and that "plaintiff Stephanie Ireland Gordy purchased a bullet proof vest and began carrying it with her to her work."
The plaintiffs, who have moved again and say they are still in hiding, hope to represent people in the US who have been stalked or are "at risk of being stalked without consent" by a Tile Tracker in the class action.
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The plaintiffs claimed that when Tile Trackers began working with Amazon's network in June 2021, it allowed Tile to expand its "crowd GPS" network exponentially.
The complaint says:
Moving forward, Tile would not simply have to rely on the network of smartphones with the Tile App installed. Instead, it could harness the far more ubiquitous network created by the millions of Amazon Echo products throughout the country. This partnership between Defendants Tile and Amazon made the Tile Tracker vastly more effective, and therefore vastly more dangerous.
Amazon's nationwide location-tracking program, Sidewalk, uses Bluetooth networks supported by Amazon customers who have home devices including some models of Echo, Ring Floodlight Cams, and Ring Spotlight Cams. The suit claims that "as of March 31, 2023, Amazon claims that the Sidewalk network reaches of 90 percent of the United States population."
Amazon says on its product page that device owners all contribute a small portion of their internet bandwidth, which is then pooled together to create a shared network that "benefits all Sidewalk-enabled devices in a community." Sidewalk uses "Bluetooth, the 900 MHz spectrum and other frequencies to extend coverage and provide these benefits."
According to the filing, Tile Inc has always marketed the product as a tool to track down people's locations, "particularly women." The suit goes on to describe platforms on which the company advertised as including "pornographic websites, where visitors would leave disturbing comments about using the trackers to find and stalk women" as well as "sites about erectile dysfunction, and other dubious outlets." The suit alleges that when "marketing consultants brought this to the attention of Tile's leadership, the company's executives mocked the findings and fiercely admonished female employees who expressed concern about this advertising strategy."
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The suit [PDF] also cites what it claims is a Tile ad dating back to 2013 which it alleges shows imagery of "a Tile Tracker attached to a bra." That video has been made private, but appears to be hosted by Tile's corporate YouTube channel, and can be seen on Wayback Machine here.
The suit alleges that despite reports from people being stalked by assailants using Tile Tracker, Tile only introduced its anti-stalking feature – "Scan and Secure" – in 2022, nine years after launch. The plaintiffs claim that not only was the feature only available for users of the Tile App, but that the detection feature must be triggered manually by the user, such that if they were periodically being monitored, they'd have to manually initiate a scan at every location.
The suit adds that in February 2023, Tile started allowing users to turn off the anti-stalking feature if they provided a government ID: "Tile is willing to allow customers to make their Tile Trackers completely undetectable."
Life360 acquired Tile for $205 million in 2021, with the pair beginning to integrate their products and services from late last year, with "Life360's more than 42 million members" having the option to join Tile's Finding Network.
A spokesperson for Life360 told us: "Life360 remains committed to the safety and privacy of our users. Using a Tile to track someone's location without their knowledge is against our terms of service, and we do not condone the use of our technology in this manner.
"Collaboration with law enforcement in cases of misuse is a priority, and we actively work to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. We have never received a law enforcement report of misuse of our Anti-Theft Mode, and we are confident our system of deterring bad actors is working as intended."
We've asked Amazon for comment. ®