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U.S. Carriers Will Use National Database to Block Stolen Cellphones

Hamburglar with Galaxy S II

Carriers in the United States have joined forces with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and police departments in an effort to combat cellphone theft. They will soon begin employing a national database that will be used to track stolen smartphones and prevent them from connecting to cell networks.

The idea may sound familiar to some readers, and that’s because it’s already used by carriers in the U.K. When a customer reports that their device is lost or stolen, it is registered in a national database and its IMEI number is prevented from connecting to any network.

Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the FCC, is set to meet with police chiefs from New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, and representatives from the wireless industry to discuss the new plan today. They will also work with members of Congress to ensure that it is a federal crime to tamper with IMEI numbers and unique device identifiers in an effort to evade the blocking process.

According to the FCC’s summary of the new plan, one in three robberies in the U.S. over the last year have involved the theft of a smartphone. That number will decrease once the new plan is in place, however, as thieves begin to realize that stolen devices are useless and have no value.

“Our goal is to make a stolen cellphone as worthless as an empty wallet,” New York Democrat Senator Charles E. Schumer said.

Over the course of the next four months, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon will put plans into place to disable stolen cellphones and prevent them from being used on their networks. And within 18 months, the FCC hopes to turn that into a national program that will merge each carriers’ database into one.

What do you think of this plan?

[via New York Times]

Killian Bell

Killian Bell is a 20-something technology journalist based in a tiny town in England. He has an obsession with that little company in Cupertino...