Apple reveals iOS 7 theft deterrent feature ‘Activation Lock’ ahead of gov’t meeting on crime

“Ahead of a meeting with government officials later this month to discuss how Apple could prevent increasing smartphone crimes, Apple today introduced a new feature called ‘Activation Lock’ that it says will be ‘a really powerful theft deterrent’ when released later this fall in iOS 7,” Jordan Kahn reports for 9to5Mac. “If a user’s device is stolen, wiping the device clean will essentially leave the thief with a device that is inoperable without the user’s Apple ID and password.”

Kahn reports, “Government officials in the US were calling Apple, Google and others to a ‘smartphone summit’ later this month on June 13 to discuss the increasing amount of smartphone related crime in New York city and the rest of the country. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon have been pushing smartphone makers to come up with solutions to prevent crime and discourage thefts of devices.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Again, this simply attempts to remove Apple devices from thieves’ lists. With the root causes for what makes criminals steal things from others wholly unaddressed, thieves will simply be stealing something else from victims. Good for Apple and, once the word gets out “on the street,” good for Apple device users. That’s about it.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
U.S. officials call on Apple, other mobile device makers to help stop smartphone theft – June 6, 2013
New York City crime is up and Mayor Bloomberg blames Apple iPhone thieves – December 28, 2012
Apple product thefts in New York City outpace rise in overall crime – September 25, 2012
Police bust up New York-based crime ring focused on Apple products – October 8, 2011

30 Comments

  1. MDN’s political bend is so strong, they simply can’t see straight.

    There is an overall rise in crime, and smartphones are the main cause. Before smartphones became so omnipresent, crime was declining year over year. Most big cities in America saw similar trends (NYC by far the most, with crime rates at the lowest levels ever recorded). Smartphones have literally helped create a new breed of specialised thieves. These are the people who weren’t thieves before. They became thieves because smarthphones are such easy low-hanging fruit. A $500 device in a purse or a handbag. Nothing is easier to steal, or fence thereafter. When the barrier of entry is higher, some don’t bother; when it is low, teenagers who would have stood a chance at some decent work end up going for the easy money of picking of iPhones from unsuspecting passers-by.

    Yes, there are definitely other things the society can (and should) do to reduce crime and re-educate criminals. But all those are expensive, difficult to do and cannot be done by Apple alone (or any other mobile phone maker alone). What Apple CAN do (and is doing ) is making it difficult for those who steal an iPhone to actually do something with that phone.

    The argument that “thieves will be thieves” simply doesn’t hold water in this case. The ease of stealing a $500 device has created a separate new breed of thieves — the kind that isn’t competent enough to attempt more dangerous criminal endeavour, and would otherwise never have become a thief in the first place.

    Not everyone with predisposition to crime actually becomes a criminal. Making it difficult to steal things deters criminals as well as any other solution offered by the society.

    MDN’s take is simply not a relevant argument in the discussion of making smartphones safer, more secure and less attractive to thieves. It essentially implies that Apple (and possibly other makers) shouldn’t bother doing this, and that the government shouldn’t really be talking to them to ask them for help. As such, it just isn’t right.

      1. I like Apple’s solution, I like it a lot. With spread implementation of iOS7 thefts of iPhones and iPads will go down. The flip side of this is that the resell value of used iPhones will go up in direct proportion to the amount thefts decrease. Legitimate sellers of iPhones won’t have to compete with those selling stolen iPhones anymore.

    1. Nowhere does MDN imply Apple shouldn’t do this, but thru correctly state this is not going to actually address crime rates.

      Just like locking cars, alarms, CCTV in shops, security guards etc etc hasn’t. ‘White collar’ crime, people taking unwarranted sick days, downloading illegal songs, movies etc all continues to climb despite the efforts of responsible companies like Apple.

      Crime rates rise because of the human condition of sin and pride, not because an iPhone doesn’t have a lock! It’ll only get worse without God too! (I’m not talking religious rules but the way Jesus actually changes our evils hearts to want to do good) God help us!

    2. I agree with Predrag on this one. MDN’s response throws cold water on Apple’s efforts instead of celebrating a step in the right direction. Of course those that prey on others will retarget their victims. That’s what they do. I applaud Apple for making it safer for ME to pull out my iPhone in public without marking myself as prey. It doesn’t take a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing, and it doesn’t take MDN to tell us that criminals will still commit crime.

    3. “The ease of stealing a $500 device has created a separate new breed of thieves — the kind that isn’t competent enough to attempt more dangerous criminal endeavour, and would otherwise never have become a thief in the first place.”

      Tell that to the 15 year old boy that lost his life to these “new breed of thieves”… those morons were just “incompetent” and the child paid for it with his life!

      http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2013/may/17/boy-15-run-over-suv-and-killed-during-theft-ipad/
      /
      /

    4. Crime is a Part of a greater problem that this will not change. MDN is correct. Correcting the actual problem, the criminal, is a problem that needs to be addressed at a different level and likely will not even be considered. However, the technical issue to make it more difficult to utilize the acquired item is a welcome response and not the cure.

      As far as crime stats, our department in the City of Los Angeles has changed the way reports are categorized and thus has had an effect of lowered crime results. The actual amount has been greater, but changing the way these are defined has made it look better. Facts sometimes artificial in reality.

    5. Don’t know what your are reading but I am not going to blame smartphones for crime (that’s like blaming guns…). I blame people for crime. And if you think educating criminals will solve the problem then you are too late. We should be educating our children first. But how do we do that when our political and celebrity “hero’s” are criminals, too.

    6. Predrag, If you think it is Apple’s fault that their phones are being stolen, then it is also Jewelers’ fault that gangsters are snatching gold necklaces off of women’s necks in run buys. That is another crime that is up in recent years. Another one is the theft of Bluray disks, the number one item stolen in home burglaries! The ease of fencing them makes them far more desirable than consumer electronics, jewelry, or other household goods that are owner identifiable. Your comments are ludicrous.

      Smartphones and Apple are NOT the main cause of the rise in crime. The reason crime is up is the ECONOMY, the lack of jobs, especially among young men, and the ease of selling stolen goods to unscrupulous buyers who see a bargain they cannot resist. It is not because there are valuable things to steal.

      Apple has taken an important step to remove their products from the value reseller market in stolen goods by making them worthless to anyone but the legitimate owner. Saying that Apple is tempting otherwise honest people into becoming thieves by making a valuable package that is easy to steal is ludicrous and shows a person who has kept his mind so damn open his brain has fallen out.

      People reared with values simply don’t steal. People without, steal. . . whatever they get a chance, iPhones, gold chains, bicycles, anything not nailed down. It is THEIR FAULT, THEIR EVIL not society’s, and certainly not Apple’s.

      1. You clearly didn’t read carefully my post, as it never said, nor implied, that Apple is somehow at fault for rise in petty crime. To make it simple: the proliferation of smartphones has created a new breed of thieves, who are dumb young kids who figure it is easier to swipe an iPhone than to flip burgers for a week. Responsibility for getting rid of them (or not even producing them in the first place) lies with the society (parents, schools, communities, etc). What I am also saying is that anything that makes it less attractive to steal something is more than likely to reduce the crime rate at least a little.

        Crime rate in NYC has dropped significantly. Not because somehow NYC is educating its children better, so they don’t become criminals; it has dropped mainly because the city has doubled the police force and has vigorously pursued these criminals. The seasoned ones are now in jail; those who were maybe on the path to become criminals have possibly changed their mind, considering the likelihood of being jailed went significantly up. So, if you reduce the motivation for potential criminals to become ones (either by making it much more likely to end up in jail, or by making it much more difficult to profit from theft), there will be fewer of them.

        There is more than one method in fighting crime. They are all valid, as the goal and the results are the same,

  2. It is rare for me to disagree with MDN, but I disagree on this issue.

    I lock my car. I lock my house doors. I lock my locker at the health club. All of which deters theft. Or keeps honest people honest.

  3. The root cause of theft? Do you mean huge inequality of wealth? Political disenfranchisement by gerrymandering? Racial targeting and jailing of pot users? No jobs? Wages below the poverty level? Whatever it is, its not bad people – they are all in high paying jobs in the banking and arms industries…

    1. Are you serious?! Are you saying just because someone is poor they are prone to steal. Wow! And then you used the term racial targeting…..riiiiggghhttt.

      1. Yeah, no kidding. Talk about profiling a group. Crime is not a function of the poor except perhaps those in most dire straights. There are plenty wealthy criminals.

      2. sunbeamrapier was just pointing out that the cause of crime in society is inequality. Less inequality less crime. It’s that simple.

        As such, the segment of society that lauds, underpins and helps cement inequality are furthering what they would characterize as “inevitable” crime.

  4. While I appreciate Apple doing this, I don’t agree that the government or any other body putting pressure on Apple to do so. If that was the case, why hasn’t the govenment put pressure on the auto industry over the last 50 years? Also, why aren’t builders required to put security systems in every house?

    I call this a double standard but I’m glad Apple is willing to step up where they can and do something. Whatever Apple does will not stop a some peoples behavior and we all know how well legislating morality works. It will just further prove that most theives are idiots.

  5. Is this the end or the beginning of fingerprint security for iPhone? Will they add fingerprint readers just for Passbook? It doesn’t make any sense for fingerprint technology to bump off “Activation Lock” in the fall. Where does this leave the fingerprint technology rumor?

  6. Strangely, thieves don’t check what sort of phone is that low-hanging fruit before they take it … they grab it if the opportunity is there, and then see what they can do with it. If it is well secured, they are not going to hand it back, or hang onto it as a souvenir … into the river or bin it goes. It is still a stolen phone on the statistics – just no pocket money for anyone.

    1. I think you are referring to short-sighted thieves attracted by the odds that the “iPhone” – on closer inspection – may turn out to be a Samsung.

  7. So…Apple, as usual, had already foreseen the problem, and had the next step in the remedy nearly finished and nearly ready for implementation, BEFORE Congress got all hot and bothered by it. Who woulda’ thought.

  8. Is there some reason that anyone can tell me that Apple keeps ignoring the simple method of requiring the device passcode in order to TURN OFF the device? As long as it’s still on, it can be tracked, and if it can be tracked chances are that it’ll be recovered far more easily. I’ve already gotten my MacBook Pro back that way, and it’s not even tracked as well as my iPhone is.

  9. It would help if police departments would use the data from Find my iDevice. There are many who won’t bother. It is considered a low profile crime to them. . . despite the fact that often when these phones are tracked they are found in the possession of thieves with MANY other stolen iPhones and goods. Often it takes an act of Congress to get the police to actually go in after the iDevice even with the data.

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