Phone companies to allow users to switch off anti-theft tracking

By the end of July, mobile phones from 16 wireless companies in the US will not only come with free anti-theft tools so owners can remotely wipe data, remotely lock the devices, keep phones from being reactivated by thieves, and have the devices spring back to life if they’re returned to their rightful owners, but, starting next month, owners will also get the option to disable these tracking and anti-theft tools if they so desire.

This is the second of two milestones in the evolution of anti-theft technology, according to the industry group CTIA.

On Tuesday, the CTIA said that the 16 members of the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Committee will have met their voluntary commitment to make anti-theft tools available for free on all new mobile phones manufactured after July 2016 for sale in the US.

This covers most of the phones sold in the country, given that the CTIA-backed group includes Apple, Google, Microsoft, Motorola, LG, Samsung, HTC and Huawei, as well as the carriers AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile.

The commitment plan was first unveiled in 2015. The first phase called for baseline anti-theft tools to be installed on all handsets offered for sale after July 2015 in the US.

The second phase, now reached, called for new handset models sold after July 2016 in the US to give authorized users the ablility to disable the anti-theft tools anytime they want to, as long as the device is still connected and still in the authorized user’s possession.

This is a win if you live in the US and don’t like the idea that your phone’s being tracked. Ditto if you dislike the idea that it can be remotely wiped or accessed.

If you want to be a smarter smartphone user, check out our 10 tips for securing your smartphone.

Also, check out Naked Security writer Paul Ducklin’s step-by-step guide to improving privacy and security on your iPhone, Android or Windows Phone.