New cellphone blacklist announced to deter thieves, and none too soon

The Right Click

The Canadian Wireless and Telecommunications Association has announced a plan to help curb smartphone thefts in Canada: when someone reports their phone as being lost or stolen, their device is placed on a 'blacklist' that stops the thief from activating it. But it might not be enough to stop thieves entirely.

On November 8, the CWTA unveiled a plan to prevent stolen phones from being reactivated. Canadian wireless carriers agreed to set up a database of all stolen phones reported to them, preventing the thieves or their unsuspecting customers from connecting the phone to any network in Canada, The Canadian Press reports.

According to the CBC, the information will be given to an international database that flags that specific phone as being stolen. Carriers will only activate devices once they've established that they haven't been stolen.

The move couldn't come at a better time for smartphone users, as the theft of phones has been steadily on the rise. In Richmond, B.C., police reported earlier this week that they had seen a 37 per cent increase from 2010 to 2011, and expect another 18 per cent increase in 2012, The Vancouver Sun reported.

"We're seeing everything from 'Can I borrow your cellphone' and then they make a run for it, to cellphones stolen while they're on a table, people snatching it from (a victim's) hand when they're walking, to threats while producing a weapon," Vancouver police constable Brian Montague said at a press conference on November 2.

Unfortunately for consumers, the nationwide blacklist won't be fully implemented until September 30, 2013.

"I'm really glad this is happening," Mike Sullivan, an MP in the Toronto riding of York South-Weston, to the Toronto Star. "But it's a little disturbing that it will take 10 and a half months to roll it out."

Weston has complained in the past that students in his riding are having their phones stolen while they walk to and from school.

When the plan is implemented, however, the CWTA will be footing the $20 million bill for the project, and the cost won't be passed on to consumers. Earlier this year, the CWTA said such a project would be "technically possible" but would be very complex and a costly endeavour for carriers, AFP reports.

In order for this program to work, the onus will be on consumers to make sure the theft or loss of their phone is promptly reported to their carrier and to the police. Otherwise, thieves will be able to take data from the phone or reactivate it without any concern for getting caught.