California bill to require antitheft technology for all smartphones

This bill was introduced by George Gascón, San Francisco’s district attorney. Gascón, long a fan of Apple and iPhone, has been pushing for antitheft legislation since last year’s introduction of Find My iPhone and activation lock.

The legislation is being opposed by CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association), the wireless trade association.

Senator Leno’s legislation will almost certainly face resistance from CTIA, the industry trade group that represents the cellphone carriers like AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US. Last year, CTIA said in a filing to the Federal Communications Commission that “a kill switch isn’t the answer.”

CTIA said that a kill switch would pose risks, because hackers who took control of the feature could disable phones for customers, including the phones used by officials in the Department of Defense and in law enforcement.

Has this ever happened, even once? I think this is a baseless argument.

The group also argues that if a phone were deactivated and the owner later retrieved it, the owner could not reactivate it. But in the case of Apple’s new antitheft feature, Activation Lock, a customer can disable a phone that has been lost as well as reactivate it with the correct user name and password after the device has been found.

I think the CTIA objects to the potential cost and is masking their argument. If it’s cost, say that, and work out a path to solving that problem. This bill is good for consumers and, I believe, has been shown to lower phone theft rates.

  • Hayek

    So the govt knows what is good for the consumers better than the phone companies. Wonderful.

    • JohnDoey

      The government is the people. So what you just said is that phone companies know what’s good for people and the people themselves do not. And by implication, that whatever our corporate overlords choose to do to us, we should sit back and take it.

      Do you really think I should be able to steal your AT&T phone from you — or buy it for $50 from the thief — and then go to an AT&T store and activate it under a new AT&T account in my own name and AT&T does nothing about that? That AT&T should be able to legally profit from the theft because they get to not only sign up the new guy to a monthly contract, but also sell you a replacement phone for $700?

      Do you really think the people of California should have to hire a ton of new cops at great expense and task them with chasing down iPhone thieves and stolen iPhones just so AT&T and other carriers can make some extra money activating stolen phones and selling replacement phones to users?

      The market for stolen iPhones makes carriers millions of dollars per year, but it also costs the Californian people millions of dollars per year in stolen phones, replacement phones, and law enforcement. Not to mention the people who are injured or killed when someone mugs them for their phone. A phone that would have absolutely no value if carriers were not activating stolen phones. That is why carriers have to stop doing that.

      A car dealer can’t sell a stolen car, they have to look at the VIN and make sure it isn’t stolen. That is part of responsible business practices. The VIN on a car has to be manually inspected, but on an iPhone, the unique identifiers are broadcast to the network and satellites. There is just no excuse for carriers turning a blind eye to this.

      • normm

        The incentive for theft would be dramatically reduced if carriers didn’t activate stolen phones, but not completely eliminated. Stolen phones would still be salable for parts, and some sophisticated fences would figure out how to hack the hardware to change the IMEI number. But that could be made very hard.

      • lucascott

        The catch is that ATT etc have databases already in place. Apple has added activation lock etc.

        This bill is rather moot and reeks of them trying to pass the buck to the carriers and hardware makers and not to other things. Which is why the carriers are tossing fits

  • JohnDoey

    No, it’s not cost. It’s that carriers look at phones as being disposable, and they want everyone else to look at them that way, too. If your phone gets stolen, what the carrier (and their industry trade group) wants you to do when your phone is stolen is buy a new phone from them.

    • lucascott

      You are going to have to do that no matter what. Cause you aren’t getting the phone back.

  • lucascott

    Something tells me that it hasn’t really slowed down theft that much. Because there are always suckers that don’t ask the right questions and will buy a used phone off eBay or Craigslist or someone that might buy it for parts.

    California would be better off focusing on what might stop such issues, like police presence in major public areas where the thefts might happen