New York attorney general wants tech companies to help fight cellphone theft

By on May 14, 2013, 6:30 PM
google, apple, microsoft, samsung, find my iphone, new york, theft, cellphone

In letters to Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has put out a call to work on a solution to the growing issue of smartphone theft. In them he asks what each is doing to combat the problem and invites the companies to work with his office to find a solution.

The letters were prompted by the year-over-year increase in smartphone thefts and the violence that accompanies them in New York City. According the New York City Police Department, theft of Apple products rose 40% in the first nine months of 2012, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Last year in the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission worked out a deal with most major cellphone carriers to create a combined database of stolen cellphones. When a phone is reported stolen, its unique serial number is added to the database, and the device is blocked from accessing carrier networks for voice and data services.

The new combined database will connect to lists from other countries and is expected to go live by November of this year, but it’s not enough for Mr. Schneiderman. In his letters, Schneiderman pushed the companies to continue developing technology that will reduce the benefit to stealing devices, and stated he does not understand how they can develop extremely sophisticated smartphone technology, but "cannot also create technology to render stolen devices inoperable and thereby eliminate the expanding black market on which they are sold."

Some software makers already include functionality to track and disable phones remotely, but they generally rely on the user to set them up beforehand. Apple has its “Find My iPhone” application that allows users to locate and remotely erase the device, and other manufacturers have similar features. Google doesn’t have anything built into the Android OS, but does have several such applications available in its app store made by third party developers.

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