U.S. wireless carriers and the Federal Communications Commission have joined together to create a national database that locks stolen cellphones out of carrier networks.
Smartphones and other mobile devices are so easy to snatch. They’re small and portable. They’re worth a lot of money. They’re easy to pirate with just a swap of a SIM card. The FCC's database of stolen phones is designed to limit theft to the plastic and electronics and not the information contained inside.
The database works by blocking a stolen cellphone’s IMEI number, making it impossible to get service for that phone. AT&T and T-Mobile have teamed up, and their joint database is online now. Verizon and Sprint are supposed to have their joint effort up and running soon. In the next year, the four major carriers are planning to merge their databases. Smaller carriers will join in along the way.
Eventually the FCC and the U.S. carriers will expand the database to cell providers all over the world. “The goal is to not only protect the consumer by cancelling the service, but by ultimately protecting the consumer by drying up the aftermarket for stolen phones,” said CTIA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Chris Guttman-McCabe.
While we can’t stop ourselves from leaving our phones in the coffee shop or having it picked out our pocket, there are things we can do to protect our privacy. Use PINs or passwords, and make sure you know how to use your phone’s remote-wiping capabilities. It might seem like closing the barn door after the horse has left, but at least a thief has only stolen your high-buck smartphone and not your identity.