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Apple's new Activation Lock for iOS 7  (Source:
Apple is already on it with iOS 7's new Activation Lock

San Francisco and New York City are looking to drop the rate of smartphone thefts in their respective cities by launching a new initiative today.

The cities are pushing the new Secure Our Smartphones Initiative today, which aims to approach smartphone companies about possible methods for killing the stolen smartphone market. They're also announcing a new nationwide coalition consisting of police, prosecutors, political officials and consumer advocates.

The new initiative will be launched by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who will hold a summit in NYC today with representatives of Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft to talk about mobile theft.

"The epidemic of violent street crime involving the theft and resale of mobile devices is a very real and growing threat in communities all across America," Schneiderman said. "According to reports, roughly 113 smartphones are stolen or lost each minute in the United States, with too many of those thefts turning violent."

One of the possible actions that the cities will suggest to tech companies will be a type of kill switch. This would render the stolen smartphone useless to thieves. 

Smartphone theft is a major problem in both of these cities as well as the rest of the U.S. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), nearly 1 in 3 robberies across the country are mobile phone-related. 

Back in April of this year, reports circulated about San Francisco's use of sting operations to tackle iPhone theft. San Francisco police officers said nearly half of all robberies in the city involved smartphones last year, and most ended up at a popular street corner where the phones were resold: Seventh and Market Street. 

The police officers dress more "streetlike" in a hoodie, jeans and sneakers and walk the streets of San Francisco with a bag of "stolen" iPhones to sell (the iPhones are actually borrowed from Apple for the purpose of the sting operations). He tells potential customers he has iPhones for sale, freshly stolen from the Apple Store, and that they should make him an offer (typically $25-$200). Buyers look the iPhones over to make sure they work, and once agreeing to the deal, offer the undercover cops cash. They accept, and give fellow police officers (who are parked down the street) a signal to make an arrest. 

Apple recently announced at WWDC that its upcoming version of its mobile operating system, iOS 7, will have a new feature called Activation Lock. This prevents thieves from being able to turn off the "Find My iPhone" feature (which allows users to locate their iPhone no matter where it is). Also, if the thief tries to wipe the iPhone, it can't be reactivated because doing so requires the user's iCloud username and password. 

"We are appreciative of the gesture made by Apple to address smartphone theft. We reserve judgment on the activation lock feature until we can understand its actual functionality," Gascon and Schneiderman said in a joint written statement.

Source: Yahoo News

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By Solandri on 6/13/2013 4:23:16 PM , Rating: 2
But - each phone has it's distinct identifier (IMEI) otherwise multiple people would have their phones ringing when they dialed their friends. How difficult would it REALLY be to have a process by which each carrier had access to a master database which could be queried before activating a 'self brought' phone?

My hunch is the carriers don't want to do it because they don't want to get involved in figuring out if a phone was actually stolen. Was it really you who reported your phone as stolen, or was it your BFF playing a joke on you? What if you report your phone stolen, then embarrassingly find it in the pocket of your other jacket, and call them saying it was your BFF playing a joke who reported it stolen? What if an actual thief calls them with the same story?

It just opens up a huge can of worms for them in terms of liability, and proof of responsibility. Easier (for them) just to allow all phones, and let the customers and police deal with theft.

By lightfoot on 6/14/2013 12:32:36 AM , Rating: 2
In addition there is no incentive for the carrier to track it. If your phone is stolen, you have to buy a new unsubsidized one (or you've already paid them for the insurance) so the carrier (and handset maker) profits. Also who ever now has the stolen phone now needs to buy service for that phone, and there are only a limited number of carriers that can support each device. Again the carrier wins; they don't even need to subsidize the stolen device.

Carriers profit enormously from theft. Why would they want to stop that?

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