It stinks to have your phone stolen and the government knows it. Now, a number of police departments and the Federal Communications Commission have teamed up to create a new federal database of cellphone information for theft prevention. Once the project goes live, it will enable mobile carriers to disable -- or, as the geeks say, "brick" -- stolen cellphones so that they'll be useless to the thieves. This is supposed to make the phone worthless on the black market, and Congress is even working on making it a federal crime to hack the disabled phones in an attempt to make them usable again. Sen. Chuck Shumer, a New York Democrat will introduce the law and told The New York Times, "Our goal is to make a stolen cellphone as worthless as an empty wallet."
This solution isn't perfect, especially for smartphone users. First of all, theft deterrent measures are only effective as long as thieves don't figure out a way around them, and if thieves are anything, they're enterprising. We're sure they'll come up with some sort of hack, regardless of whether or not it's a federal crime. There's also bound to be some privacy concerns based on the recent kerfuffle raised over police department's use of cellphones as tracking tools. Not only do police departments routinely track people through their cell phones, but mobile carriers also make money charging hidden fees to make this possible. A national database of all cellphones made readily available to police is likely only to stoke this debate.