* U.S. wireless carriers to create database of phone IDs
* Carriers to block reactivation of stolen or lost devices
* New laws would make it a federal crime to tamper with IDs
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON, April 10 U.S. wireless carriers
representing 90 percent of subscribers will on Tuesday announce
the creation of a database of unique cell phone IDs to help
prevent theft and reactivation of stolen or lost devices, which
often contain sensitive personal data.
The shared database will be up and running in the United
States in six months and the carriers plan to expand it globally
over 18 months, said the Federal Communications Commission,
which along with the carriers will unveil the scheme.
FCC officials said the centralized database will allow
consumers to notify their wireless provider of a theft and in
turn their provider will block the device from being used again.
Legislation backed by Senator Charles Schumer would also
make it a federal crime to tamper with the unique IDs in an
effort to deter attempts to evade the database.
Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc, Sprint Nextel Corp
and T-Mobile USA, who will share the database, represent 90
percent of U.S. wireless subscribers.
Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon
Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc, while
T-Mobile USA is owned by Deutsche Telekom AG.
The booming demand for mobile devices like Apple Inc's
iPad tablet and Google Inc's suite of
Android-powered smartphones has been coupled with a similar boom
in crime involving these devices.
Cell phones were taken in 54 percent more robberies last
year in Washington, D.C., than in 2007, and are targeted in 38
percent of all robberies in the capital, FCC officials said.
Similar statistics ring true in New York, Philadelphia and
other major cities, the FCC reported, with many instances
leading to serious injury or death.
The FCC will also announce industry plans to better educate
consumers on how to combat cell phone and data theft.
User guides and messages on the smartphone itself will relay
the importance of protecting wireless devices with passwords,
and wireless customers will be provided with information about
mobile apps that allow them to remotely lock and locate their
device as well as wipe it of all data.