Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung pressed to combat smartphone theft

“New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pushing makers of handsets and wireless operating system software to do more to combat the exploding theft of smartphones, as mobile operators work on a global database of stolen devices that could help tame the outbreak,” Thomas Gryta reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“In letters sent to Apple Inc., Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Samsung Electronics that were released Monday, Mr. Schneiderman asked the companies what they were doing to combat ‘this growing public safety problem,'” Gryta reports. “As Mr. Schneiderman reaches out to device and software makers, wireless carriers are simultaneously working on a database to help block the use of stolen phones on their network. In the U.S., most carriers have individual databases, but the industry struck a deal last year with the Federal Communications Commission to create a unified national database for stolen devices. That database, expected to be live by November, will connect to lists from other countries to help defuse the problem outside of the U.S. where many used and stolen smartphones are exported.”

Gryta reports, “Wireless phones that have been reported stolen to the carrier will be listed in the database using unique serial numbers associated with mobile gadgets. The carriers will block listed phones from accessing carrier networks for voice and data service… In the letters, Mr. Schneiderman said he sought to understand why companies that can develop sophisticated technology ‘cannot also create technology to render stolen devices inoperable and thereby eliminate the expanding black market on which they are sold.’ …Apple for several years has offered ‘Find My iPhone,’ free software that can help locate and remotely erase an Apple product from over the Web, among other things. Apple also offers a companion app so customers can track a lost or stolen device using another iPhone or iPad.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple already provides a way to track devices and flag them as lost or stolen, allowing users to lock them with passcodes. What else do you want Apple to do, frequent doughnut shops?

Related articles:
Theft of Apple iPhone sets off a cinematic high-speed chase – May 5, 2013
The New York Times tries to blame Apple for smartphone thefts – May 2, 2013
iTheft busters: NYPD forms dedicated team to catch iPhone and iPad thieves – February 22, 2013
Thanks to Apple’s ‘Find My iPad,’ California police arrest Christmas present thief – December 27, 2011
Apple’s ‘Find My iPhone’ helps find wreckage of Chilean plane crash – September 7, 2011
Find My iPhone! Hampshire binmen save iPhone after rubbish error – January 13, 2011
Mugging victim uses Apple’s ‘Find My iPhone’ to track robbers – August 31, 2009
NYC thieves want iPhones, victims are fighting back with tech like Apple’s ‘Find My iPhone’ – July 2, 2009


  1. And I want to know what the manufacturers of desireable cars, flat screen TVs and diamonds are doing to combat the theft of the items the manufacture and sell!

    1. Also build the largest known database for fingerprints. Connect the lines on the finger and place a name to the prints.

      Ummmm… Can one see the government drool?

  2. My family in Australia has lost three iPhones to theft in the last five years. These were definitely stolen, not lost. Each time Find My iPhone has been useless as they have never been switched back on. We have reported the theft each time to our telecom and the phone is then blocked nationally using the phone’s unique IMEI code. They are presumably wiped and sold overseas, as currently these IMEI databases are not internationally linked. Doing so will be a major step in reducing what is clearly organised crime at work.

    1. She be right mate, that’s just Anustralia’s healthy disrespect for the law. Eliminating the culture on that putrid island would be not only a deterrent to crime but an advancement to world peace.

      Oi Oi Oi.

  3. When my daughter’s iPhone was stolen, the thieves just switched the sim card, so it never showed up with find my iPhone. I asked Apple and AT&T to list the iPhone serial number (not the SIM card) as stolen so the thieves couldn’t just but a new card in it and keep using it with AT&T.
    Apple and AT&T both told me that there was nothing they could do about that.

    I’m sure my daughter’s iPhone is back on AT&T’s service with whoever ended up with it.

  4. MDN says: Apple already provides a way to track devices and flag them as lost or stolen, allowing users to lock them with passcodes. What else do you want Apple to do, frequent doughnut shops?

    I see this as a lurking motivation to push humanity toward THE SINGULARITY whereby all our tech gear is embedded into our skulls. Not good. Ray Kurzweil can shove it.

    But the scary singularity idea certainly solves the stolen smartphone problem. Instead, we’ll have an accelerated rate of kidnapping, aka technapping. 😉

  5. I have absolutely no desire to make phones trackable when turned off. The iPhone does not have a removable battery. If it were redesigned to be trackable when the iPhone is off then someone (government, hacker, etc.) could track my movements wherever I am so long as I have it with me — either that or I put it into a copper sleeve in my pocket.

    Yes, I have some minimal concerns about the government tracking me without my permission or knowledge or even a court order. However, as with the RFID issues with credit cards and passports, etc. there will be issues with a phone broadcasting its position and identity even when supposedly “off”. If this comes to pass there will be a proliferation of cell phone “cases” that are RF blocking just like there is a significant market for wallets and purses that are RF blocking.

    The solution is to get the police to do their jobs. Make stealing a phone more painful than it is profitable.

  6. Offer a firearm with each iPhone purchase and call it “More Bang for Your Buck!” promotion.

    Besides, isn’t stealing illegal in NY? It is? Maybe NY needs to be doing more with these lawbreakers.

    Another “There’s no there, there.” when it comes to the NY AG!

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