It appears someone has produced a magic ring and activated it, calling U.S. wireless carriers together to create a database that will help protect consumers against cell phone theft. And while the carriers, representing 90% of phone service subscribers, aren’t really superheroes, there are high hopes that this new database will help thwart thieves.
Reuters reports that Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc, Sprint Nextel Corp and T-Mobile USA are included in the group database plan, which should be up and running in the next six months in the U.S. The Federal Communications Commission and those companies unveiled the plan today. There are plans to expand it globally as well.
The FCC says the database will allow consumer to notify their wireless provider in the event of theft and the provider will then block that device from use. Senator Chuck Schumer also threw in some legislation he backed, making it a federal crime to tamper with the unique IDs used in the centralized database, so that thieves can’t get around it and unlock devices.
In robberies last year in Washington, D.C, cell phones were taken 54% more than they were in 2007, and are the target in 38% of all robberies in the capital, says the FCC. Those kinds of figures are similar in big cities like New York, Philadelphia and others.
The FCC also plans on ways to educate consumers better so that they can combat cell phone and data theft, using guides, anti-theft apps and messages on smartphones.