U.S. carriers to start stolen phone database

All four of the U.S.’ largest wireless providers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile — have agreed to a deal with the government to build a central database of stolen cellphones. The Wall Street Journal reports that the database will be built and maintained by the carriers, and will be designed to tracks phones reported as lost or stolen and deny those phones service should they attempt to be reactivated.

The move hopes to reduce the number of cell phone thefts by making it difficult, if not impossible, to actually use a stolen device. “New technologies create new risks,” said Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, which negotiated the database proposal.

“We wanted to find a way to reduce the value of stolen smartphones.” Apple, for its part, offers iPhone users free iCloud features such as Find My iPhone and Remote Wipe that enable users to potentially track their devices should they become lost or stolen, or otherwise delete all potentially sensitive data from the device.