Wireless Companies Update Anti-Theft Tools

Commit to more user-friendly controls

In response to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's call for wireless companies to update their commitment to combating Smartphone theft and the information that can be stolen with it, CTIA: The Wireless Association and participating companies have pledged to update that policy.

CTIA has also come up with a list of apps that allow users to locate and lock or erase the info from stolen phones as well as a video guide to setting up passwords and PIN numbers.

“Today’s announcement of the new Commitment is the latest example of how America’s wireless industry takes on tough issues and works together to develop the best solutions for their customers that balances the needs of users while still providing the flexibility for companies to innovate," CTIA said.

The anti-theft tools must be either preloaded or downloadable and must be able to remotely wipe a user's data, render it inoperable to an "unauthorized user"—with a carve-out for FCC 911 communications—prevent reactivation without permission, and reverse the inoperability once it is recovered by an authorized user.

The new commitment makes the tool more user-friendly and responsive to the FCC's call for that user-friendliness to extend to making sure the tools are enabled. The FCC's Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) recommended back in June that the industry insure that the default settings for locking and remote wiping features was enabled, with the user having to "take affirmative steps to disable them."

"What is 'new' is the commitment to make the tool 'widely adopted' and innovate so that the experience is extremely user-friendly and simplifies the ability to maintain the 'default-on' state," said a CTIA spokesperson.

"In order to be effective, the anti-theft tools need to be widely adopted while still respecting the importance of consumer choices and privacy," the new commitment reads. "New models of smartphones first manufactured after July 2016 for retail sale in the United States will, if technically necessary, make readily available to the authorized user an option that allows the authorized user to enable or disable the anti-theft solution at any time that the smartphone is connected and is in the authorized user’s possession."

(Photo via Japanexperterna.se's Flickr. Image taken on Oct. 2, 2015 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 3x4 aspect ratio.)