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State AGs to cellphone makers: Install technology to curb thefts

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NBC Today Show’s Jeff Rossen did a segment this morning on a move by 31 state attorneys general to send letters to “leading cellphone makers Samsung, Motorola and Microsoft demanding the companies ‘take all steps necessary to put consumer safety and security ahead of corporate profits…’ “

The 29 states and two territories signing the A.G.'s letter are Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Utah, and Vermont.

Microsoft has already said:

“Windows Phone has built in capabilities enabling users to find, lock and even remotely delete data from a lost or stolen phone. We agree this is an industry-wide issue and are working closely with the CTIA and other organizations to address.”

Rossen gave Apple good grades for a feature built in to their latest operating system to “brick” phones although he complained it was somewhat hard to find.

CTIA does have information on links to suppliers of antitheft software. Their main page of information on the topic, Before It's Gone: Steps to Deter Smartphone Thefts & Protect Personal Info, has the statement “CTIA and its members remind you that your personal safety, not your smartphone, should always be your number one priority.” However CTIA carefully avoids the issue of violent smartphone thefts that seem to have motivated the AGs action and appears to focus on protecting the information on the smartphones through remote wiping. The issue of “bricking” phone to make theft unattractive and hence decrease violence.

This is typical of a cellphone industry trend to minimize the unintended consequences of their products, be they
  • RF safety concerns or
  • use of cell phones in prisons or
  • anonymous cellphone use by criminals
  • or the “uglification” of communities with cell towers that were designed with no attention to their environment
as the industry demands more spectrum. The cellular industry provides many real benefits to society and more cellular spectrum is needed, but why can’t the industry also think more about its role in our society?

Video from CTIA website - Note being mugged is not given as one of the “stages of losing a cellphone” and the woman that lost the phone does not appear to have any injuries - unfortunately not always the case!

Other coverage:
NY Daily News
Mass AG
Village Voice


On December 30, 2013 FCC Commissioner Pai tweeted:

A gun-toting mugger in Central Park was so disappointed by his victim’s cheap flip phone that he handed it back." http://nypost.com/2013/12/29/central-park-mugger-rejects-flip-phone/ …

This is one of the realities that the cellular industry is trying to ignore: If you make use of smartphones in urban areas dangerous because they are too valuable to thieves since they can’t be “bricked” readily, urban users may go back to “flip phones” and “feature phones” and avoid the highly profitable but possibly dangerous smart phones.

Thus bricking phones quickly and effectively is really in everybody’s interest!
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