US Govt sets to devalue stolen phones
Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, wireless carriers representing 90% of US cellular customers, will be sharing a database that should be up and running within 6 months. The database will hold a number that uniquely identifies a cellular device. Customers will be able to notify their carrier that their phone has been lost or stolen and in turn, the carriers will put the phones information in the database, disabling the phone for re-use. The idea being that a disabled phone is of little value to a thief and this infrastructure should dissuade many thefts from ever happening in the first place. There is currently legislation in the Senate that would make it a federal crime to tamper with the phone’s unique IDs to evade the database.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is holding an event to unveil the new initiative. One of the main pushes for the program is to deter theft with the beneficial side-effect of reducing the overhead for police involvement in frequent device thefts.
There has previously been much criticism of the carriers not creating a similar program, with some seeing the business incentive for the companies to not disable stolen devices as it gets them more customers and double purchases.