Technology

N.Y. Attorney General Schneiderman Investigating Wireless Providers For Collusion In Blocking A Smartphone Tracking Software

| by Will Hagle

As smartphones become increasingly prominent in all aspects of modern life, smartphone owners have become more and more attached to their devices. Losing a smartphone means losing a wealth of contact information, emails, pictures and other data that most would prefer not to lose. Also, the phones are expensive and therefore difficult to replace. 

One company, Absolute Software, believes it has the knowledge, power and technology to eradicate the concept of stolen or lost phones.

According to the Huffington Post, the company is comprised of former law officers, and the team has recovered more than 30,000 devices throughout the past 20 years, with their efforts spanning more than 100 countries. Most of their recoveries involved stolen laptops or PCs, but the company recently opened a smartphone recovery service.

Similar smartphone recovery services have existed in branches of other companies, and Apple’s most recent update to their iPhone line automatically included the “Find My iPhone” app, a program that allows users to track the location of a stolen or lost phone online. 

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Absolute goes beyond simply alerting its users where their device is located, as it works with police officers in order to track down and recover phones that it believes to be stolen. For an annual fee of $30, users can ensure that their phone will be located and retrieved no matter where in the world it ends up. Because these tracking capabilities would mean that no phone would ever be truly lost, Absolute planned to install their software in all Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets.

According to the Huffington Post, however, the software was blocked from being embedded in the devices not by Samsung, but by wireless carriers such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.

Since the new technology was blocked by the carriers, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched a preliminary investigation regarding collusion between the corporations, all of which benefit from phone insurance providers that profit off individuals that lose their smartphones. 

Schneiderman explained that blocking a feature that would essentially prevent theft was a threat to the safety of smartphone-carrying citizens.

“If carriers are colluding to prevent theft-deterrent features from being pre-installed on devices as means to sell more insurance products, they are doing so at the expense of public safety and putting their customers in danger,” Schneiderman said. 

Schneiderman recently sent letters to all of the major wireless carriers questioning their ban on the software.

“My office will determine whether these companies allowed their business relationships to influence their ability to take immediate action against theft,” Schneiderman said in the letter.

Schneiderman has a reason to be concerned about the safety of his state’s citizens. The New York Daily News reports that stealing smartphones and reselling them on the black market is “the fastest-growing street crime in New York City.”

Whether or not Absolute’s software can actually slow those crimes from occurring is unproven, but if the wireless carriers are, indeed, in collusion, they should be stopped immediately.