Microsoft Promises To Render Your Smartphone Useless If It’s Stolen

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This morning, Microsoft promised to meet the stipulations of the CTIA’s Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment before the goal-date of July 2015.

Specifically, Microsoft will bring remote-wipe; bricking of lost handsets; reactivation protection for stolen handsets; and the ability to undo phone “inoperability” if the handset in question is recovered.

Cell-phone theft is an issue that has reached congress through a bill called the Cell Phone Theft Prevention Act of 2013. In short, as smartphones become ubiquitous, they have become prime targets for theft.

The market can deter theft by making smartphones that are stolen worth little — or even nothing. An iPhone, say, is a nice-looking piece of industrial design, but if its actual owner can remotely nuke it so that it doesn’t do anything, it isn’t worth nearly as much as it might have been.

That’s why the Voluntary Commitment — the four features that Microsoft highlighted in its post — renders phones data-free and inoperable. You can’t use the stolen phone, and even if you could, there wouldn’t be anything onboard to exploit.

Microsoft is not alone in taking the pledge; Apple, Google, Motorola Mobility, Nokia, and all major U.S. cellular carriers have joined the company in the effort.