Apple, Google Pushed to Combat Smartphone Thefts

Jun 6, 2013 8:16am
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                                                                      (Image Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The top legal officers for New York and San Francisco have had it with smartphone thefts, and this time around they’re not blaming law enforcement for not doing enough about it.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have summoned the four largest companies in the smartphone industry to New York City next week to address what the executives can do to prevent the “national epidemic” of “Apple-picking,” or phone theft.

More than 1.6 million people had their smartphones stolen last year and, according to the Federal Communications Commission, 30 to 40 percent of robberies in several major cities involve cellphones, including 38 percent in Washington and 40 percent in New York City.

Lost and stolen cellphones cost consumers more than $30 billion last year, another study reports.

Gascón and Schneiderman have called the “Smartphone Summit” to press the largest phone makers – Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft – and mobile carriers on why they’ve done so little to disable devices permanently when they’re stolen.

“It’s time for manufacturers to be as innovative in solving this problem as they have been in designing devices that have reshaped how we live,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

‘Apple Picking’ Has  Gotten Even More Violent 

Many of the companies and carriers do preload phone tracking and security software on the handsets. Apple’s “Find My iPhone” feature allows owners to track their phones and Samsung’s Galaxy S4 shipped with Lookout Mobile’s app, which provides similar functionality. Google hasn’t built a tracking application into its Android operating system.

The government is attempting to pick up some of the slack. In April, then-FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, along with  Washington Mayor Vincent Gray and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced the creation and implementation of a database to prevent the use of stolen smartphones.

With the new system, cellphone users will be able to report their device stolen and their carrier will block the device from being used again. The database is still in development.

The Smartphone Summit will begin next Thursday.

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