Finally, A National Database To Stop Criminals From Stealing Smartphones

iPhone bus ride

Photo: Boonsri Dickinson, Business Insider

As robberies of electronic gadgets continue to rise in cities around the nation, carriers can no longer just sit back and watch these crimes happen.The Federal Communications Committee has announced its plans to work with four U.S. mobile operators to fight smartphone theft. The plan is to set up a centralized database system, which will be implemented in six months. Such a database will prevent stolen phones from being reactivated.

Chairman Julius Genachowski made an announcement with police chiefs and folks from the four wireless carriers — AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint — that have 90 per cent of U.S. subscribers. 

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The point of a registry system is to deter the theft of smartphones and to keep smartphone data safe.

In New York, more than 40 per cent of robberies involve smartphones and cell phones, according to the FCC. That rate is also true in urban sprawls around the country. It’s even higher in cities like Washington D.C., where the rate is more than 50 per cent.

The main issue with smartphone thefts is that when the gadgets are stolen, they can be resold at close to market value. Victims of robberies can’t do anything to stop the phone from being used again because carriers allow stolen phones to be re-activated. It’s a vicious cycle.

A database that keeps track of stolen phones has reduced crime in other parts of the world because there is no reason for criminals to resell an item that won’t ever work.

“I wish that there could be a national registry for stolen devices. It could be a huge deterrent for iPhone thefts,” one San Francisco officer who investigates these crimes recently told us.

There are always ways around it, GigaOM pointed out. The Unique Mobile Equipment Identify Number can be changed if a criminal is armed with the right tools.

Beyond implementing technology to deter the crimes, members of congress are discussing plans to introduce legislation that will make it a federal crime if someone messes with the hardware identifiers on wireless devices.

That would would make it trying to change the vehicle identification number on a car — something only criminals would bother to do.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said, “If you steal a mobile phone it will be a worthless endeavour. If you try to sell a stolen mobile phone you will get caught.”

Better late than never, right?

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