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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Smartphone Makers, Carriers To Support Anti-theft Initiative

U.S. wireless carriers and smartphone makers have agreed to introduce tools to enable users to lock their devices and wipe them clean of data if stolen.

Starting in July 2015, all smartphones manufactured by the companies will come with free anti-theft tools preloaded on the devices or ready to be downloaded, according to wireless association CTIA, which announced the agreement on Tuesday.

These tools will be able to remotely wipe the authorized user's data (i.e., erase personal info that is added after purchase such as contacts, photos, emails, etc.) that is on the smartphone in the event it is lost or stolen. The tools will also render the smartphone inoperable to an unauthorized user (e.g., locking the smartphone so it cannot be used without a password or PIN), except in accordance with FCC rules for 911 emergency communications, and if available, emergency numbers programmed by the authorized user (e.g., "phone home"). The phone's inoperability will be reversed if the smartphone is recovered by the authorized user.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney, George Gascon welcomed the voluntary agreement but said it fell short of what they have advocated to prevent theft.

The 10 device makers signing the voluntary agreement included Apple Inc, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Google Inc and HTC America Inc. The wireless carriers included Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc, Sprint Corp, T-Mobile US Inc and U.S. Cellular.

The agreement extends individual decisions by Apple and Samsung to include features in their new mobile software that require a legitimate owner's ID and password before a phone can be wiped clean or re-activated after being remotely erased.

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