Both mobile device manufacturers and service providers have given District Attorney George Gascón what he said are unsatisfactory answers on how to slow down the pace of thefts in San Francisco.
Gascón has been trying to persuade the telecommunications industry to implement technology that disables cellphones and tablets after they are reported stolen. He said the intention is to make devices such as iPhones, which were involved in half The City’s robberies last year, less attractive to thieves.
Gascón said he was disheartened after a meeting with service providers earlier this month and was hopeful that a discussion with Apple last week would reveal a commitment toward solutions. He said that didn’t happen.
“It was very underwhelming,” Gascón said about the hourlong talk with Apple’s government liaison, Michael Foulkes. “He did most of the talking. It was incredible. He would just go on and on, one subject to the next. It was hard to follow. It was almost like someone who’s been trained in the art of doing a lot of talking and saying nothing.”
Apple did not respond to requests for comment.
Gascón said Foulkes discussed the long and laborious process of researching and producing a kill-switch technology for devices, and also said the next two generations of iPhones have already been developed.
“They preceded Tim Cook,” the district attorney said he was told of the future iPhones.
Gascón said he doesn’t need to see the technology in the next iPhone, but simply wants a plan in place. He said industry insiders have told him the technology is possible.
Last year, an industry solution that was agreed upon with the federal government and law enforcement agencies included implementing a national registry in which a theft victim can enter his or her phone’s identification number into a database.
Service providers accessing that database can then deny any request to activate the phone. The registry’s effectiveness has limitations, however, because stolen phones can still be activated by carriers that are not participating in the registry and many devices are immediately shipped overseas for resale.
Gascón speculated that the apparent lack of interest in implementing kill-switch technology is fueled by profits — once you lose a phone, he said, you have to buy a new one.
“I think there’s just too much being made on stolen phones,” he said.