Major U.S. Carriers Agree to Develop Centralized Database to Track Stolen Mobile Phones

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The Wall Street Journal reports that the four major U.S. wireless carriers have reached an agreement with the Federal Communications Commission to work toward a centralized database to track and disable stolen mobile phones.
The database, which the wireless companies will build and maintain, will be designed to track phones that are reported as lost or stolen and deny them voice and data service. The idea is to reduce crime by making it difficult or impossible to actually use a stolen device, reducing resale value.

Currently, Verizon Communications Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp. block phones that are reported stolen from being reactivated. AT&T Inc. and Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile USA don't. All four have agreed to be part of the new database.
The report cites a study from the New York Police Department showing that electronics are now the most commonly stolen type of property, with mobile phones accounting for over 80% of thefts in that category.

According to the plan, the major carriers will develop individual databases within six months, integrating them over the following 12 months. Smaller carriers will also join the database after that point. The database will also be interoperable with similar efforts in other countries to allow for international tracking of stolen phones, although many countries have yet to develop such databases.

As noted by ifoAppleStore, Apple has typically taken a hands-off approach when it comes to stolen phones, with Genius Bar staff routinely offering free warranty replacements in exchange for stolen phones. Apple's policies reportedly stem from a lack of centralized tracking of stolen devices and a desire to not become involved in potential confrontations over the stolen merchandise, but an official database supported by the carriers could help Apple become more proactive about handling stolen iPhones.

Article Link: Major U.S. Carriers Agree to Develop Centralized Database to Track Stolen Mobile Phones
 

Daveoc64

macrumors 601
Jan 16, 2008
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Bristol, UK
Now that the US Carriers have got on board with this concept I'd like to see Apple demonstrate why their activation procedure can actually be good for consumers, instead of bad.

Every iPhone needs to be activated with Apple before it will function.

At the time of activation, they could check whether or not the phone is on a blacklist (preferably the CEIR/IMEIdb) and refuse to activate a device that has been reported lost or stolen.

They certainly have the technical capability to do this, but whether they will or not is another matter.

There are ways to get around an IMEI block (like "changing" the IMEI on the device, using it as a Wi-Fi only device etc.), but this would add another layer to the mix.

----------

About time. I wonder if they can retroactively find my stolen iPad.
Unlikely.

If the IMEI of the iPad was added to the database, it would no longer function on the US Carriers signed up to use the database.
 

Moonjumper

macrumors 68000
Jun 20, 2009
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Lincoln, UK
Every step taken towards making a stolen phone less usable makes stealing them less profitable, and so reduces crime. Good news.
 

dannytip

macrumors newbie
Apr 11, 2010
21
5
Hasn't the UK had this for years? I think a lot of 'blocked' phones end up getting exported.
 

bigcat318

macrumors 6502
Dec 25, 2007
329
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Who wants to be the conspiracy theorist that thinks they are compiling this database so it is easier to track us?
 

androiphone

macrumors 65816
Dec 13, 2009
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About time. I wonder if they can retroactively find my stolen iPad.
no the database would stop your ipad working with any network, it is most useful for phones and goes on the methodology that if a thief knows that a phone they steal will not be able to be used on any network then it is pointless them stealing it as they 1, cannot use it themselves or 2, they can't sell it because a buyer would check that the product works before buying.
 

thewitt

macrumors 68020
Sep 13, 2011
2,102
1,518
The GSMA also have this and all members have access, however it only works for GSM phones.

This new system will work with any wireless technology. Since the GSMA refused to include CDMA carriers into their system, they really forced a break with their system.
 

BMNB1tch

macrumors regular
Jan 20, 2009
134
0
until thieves mask the phone's IMEI during activation and we're back to where we are now

meanwhile there is a centralized tracking database built in the name of freedom.... :eek:
 

androiphone

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Dec 13, 2009
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Who wants to be the conspiracy theorist that thinks they are compiling this database so it is easier to track us?
it can't be used to track people, the database only contains the IMEIs of stolen phones, the IMEI is logged by the network at every mast site already now today (that's how it works) what this does is check the IMEI against the stole list and if it matches then no mobile service will be given, effectively making the mobile phone useless.
 

Daveoc64

macrumors 601
Jan 16, 2008
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Bristol, UK
it can't be used to track people, the database only contains the IMEIs of stolen phones, the IMEI is logged by the network at every mast site already now today (that's how it works) what this does is check the IMEI against the stole list and if it matches then no mobile service will be given, effectively making the mobile phone useless.
Indeed
until thieves mask the phone's IMEI during activation and we're back to where we are now

meanwhile there is a centralized tracking database built in the name of freedom.... :eek:
As above, there's nothing in the database that carriers, phone manufacturers or the government don't already have access to.

Nor is there going to be anything in the database that wouldn't already exist in current systems - it's just going to be used in a more effective manner.
 

Daveoc64

macrumors 601
Jan 16, 2008
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Bristol, UK
No one has to be. It's the truth...
Utter nonsense!

Explain how telling your carrier the IMEI (which they already know) of a device you no longer have is going to help them (or the government) track you?

People really have to think before they write.

You'd give the police the licence plate number of your car if it was stolen wouldn't you?
 
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androiphone

macrumors 65816
Dec 13, 2009
1,000
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until thieves mask the phone's IMEI during activation and we're back to where we are now

meanwhile there is a centralized tracking database built in the name of freedom.... :eek:
this is just plain incorrect on both counts, some very old phones can have their IMEIs changed but all new phones the IMEI is hard coded into the phones and cannot be changed, this list would stop any network connectivity on the stolen phones and not stop them from activating.

if you are somehow (incorrectly) scared that this list can track you then you're too late a mobile phones IMEI is already given to every Mast you connect to but it is the SIM ID that would be used to track you which gives your phone it's mobile account with your network.
 

Enuratique

macrumors 6502
Apr 28, 2008
276
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Who wants to be the conspiracy theorist that thinks they are compiling this database so it is easier to track us?
While that's entirely possible, this is just another avenue to charge every customer some "cost recovery fee" associated with this mandate.

The major carriers: Oh no! What a burden, it will take us only 6 months to develop and another to integrate. Surely this will cost us $100 billion dollars, of which we must recoup from our customers on a monthly basis.
 

clibinarius

macrumors 6502a
Aug 26, 2010
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NY
I'm not satisfied with this. I'm not convinced stolen phones aren't leaving the country, and if this is the case, the telecoms and electronics industry needs to do something-this might lower the resale value (This I love...less incentive to steal) unless you realize you can ship it to Brazil illegally and make more money than reselling it here.
 

Daveoc64

macrumors 601
Jan 16, 2008
4,057
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Bristol, UK
I'm not satisfied with this. I'm not convinced stolen phones aren't leaving the country, and if this is the case, the telecoms and electronics industry needs to do something-this might lower the resale value (This I love...less incentive to steal) unless you realize you can ship it to Brazil illegally and make more money than reselling it here.
The best thing to do would be to ensure that the US system will integrate with the IMEI db.

This is the de facto blacklist worldwide and the more countries that get on board the better!
 

Glenn.955

macrumors member
Apr 29, 2009
74
6
Melbourne Australia
Hasn't the UK had this for years? I think a lot of 'blocked' phones end up getting exported.
Australia has had this for many years now... And as a result stolen phones are virtually useless.

In case you loose your phone and don't know the IMEI number it is transmitted with each call made and the telco can tell from their databases what your IMEI number is based on your mobile number. It's simple and it works... :D
 

war eagle

macrumors 6502a
Jul 24, 2008
648
7
I'm not satisfied with this. I'm not convinced stolen phones aren't leaving the country, and if this is the case, the telecoms and electronics industry needs to do something-this might lower the resale value (This I love...less incentive to steal) unless you realize you can ship it to Brazil illegally and make more money than reselling it here.
Most thieves aren't that smart. They're going to craigslist as soon as they get it.