Today is a bad day for thieves, very bad. You see, electronics are the number one item stolen – even more so than cash and finally the US will be implementing a system to ensure stolen cell phones no longer work on US cellular networks. In December of 2009 I wrote about how eBay has become the world’s largest pawn shop of stolen goods and in fact gave an example to a person in the UK who tracked down $10,000 worth of stolen goods, taken from him on eBay – and was able to recover them.
As a result, in the post titled Tech Lubricates Theft, Can it do so For Law Enforcement? I proposed a central database where devices get unique identification numbers and are subsequently linked to consumers. The idea being that if a gadget is stolen, it no longer operates. I outlined the following benefits of such a database and system:
- Less crime
- Less police needed
- Less violence
- Lower security costs which means savings get passed on
- More secure neighborhoods
- Higher standard of living
I went on to say the following:
Thankfully we are at a point where GPS and RFID devices can be easily and inexpensively integrated into lots of products making them very difficult to steal and resell.
Perhaps a company or group of them will come out with a new set of standards which will allow us to track our belongings more accurately.
I would imagine a couple of the ones who should be involved include Amazon as they sell just about everything. eBay too as they really sell just about everything and Google who will obviously want us to use their search engine to track and find all of our products.
So for now, Web lubrication is really working to the advantage of the thieves. Hopefully soon we can turn the tables and put the power of technology in the hands of retailers, consumers and law enforcement and send more thieves to jail.
In another post from September, 2010 I said:
But really, if we want to improve global productivity and reduce the amount of police reports filed why would we not implement such a simple system? eBay in fact should be championing the idea as it is a publicly traded company and at some point you have to assume the bad press from them being the world's largest pawn shop will catch up with them.
The good news is US carriers have come together with the FCC to develop a database of stolen phones – details haven’t been worked out but they will be over time. Moreover, the goal is to connect US carriers with others overseas - U.K., Germany, France and Australia have similar systems in place already.
Of course a few challenges to the system are that many countries have yet to implement a similar system. So a thief could still sell goods in those places. Moreover, what about other electronics? You may remember me railing against TomTom for not having a policy in place to ensure they don’t profit from stolen GPS devices by continuing to allow them to operate on their network.
I applaud the FCC and Chairman Julius Genachowski for spearheading this initiative – I believe this is one of those initiatives which will drastically improve the quality of life for the average US citizen. And it is a first step – we have to ensure privacy is kept intact, other devices are added to databases and that global cooperation takes place.
There also needs to be a global system of arbitration – to minimize disputes. What happens for example when a couple separates ad one person is upset the other took the GPS unit with them when they left the house? If they report the device as stolen, is it? Someone has to deal with these issues – perhaps the local police can handle it. Time will tell.
So again, I applaud the FCC and US wireless carriers – this is a historic day in my opinion and I hope global quality of life improves as a result.