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Tracking Stolen Gadgets — Manufacturers' New Dilemma 250

Posted by Soulskill
from the big-brother-is-on-call dept.
heptapod sends in a story from the NY Times about a growing problem for the makers of high-tech gadgets: deciding when and how it's appropriate to track a stolen device. With the advent of ubiquitous GPS and connections to services like the Kindle book store, the companies frequently have a way to either narrow down a user's location or impede use of the device. But some, like Amazon, are drawing a hard line when it comes to establishing that the device was actually stolen. "Samuel Borgese, for instance, is still irate about the response from Amazon when he recently lost his Kindle. After leaving it on a plane, he canceled his account so that nobody could charge books to his credit card. Then he asked Amazon to put the serial number of his wayward device on a kind of do-not-register list that would render it inoperable — to 'brick it' in tech speak. Amazon's policy is that it will help locate a missing Kindle only if the company is contacted by a police officer bearing a subpoena. Mr. Borgese, who lives in Manhattan, questions whether hunting down a $300 e-book reader would rank as a priority for the New York Police Department."
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Tracking Stolen Gadgets — Manufacturers' New Dilemma

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  • Street justice? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PCM2 (4486)

    Mr. Borgese, who lives in Manhattan, questions whether hunting down a $300 e-book reader would rank as a priority for the New York Police Department.

    If that's the case, then what does he hope to achieve by finding out the location of the Kindle? Rhetorical question -- we all know what he hopes to achieve, and Amazon wants no part of it.

    • Re:Street justice? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lloyd_Bryant (73136) on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:27PM (#29395405)

      Mr. Borgese, who lives in Manhattan, questions whether hunting down a $300 e-book reader would rank as a priority for the New York Police Department.

      If that's the case, then what does he hope to achieve by finding out the location of the Kindle? Rhetorical question -- we all know what he hopes to achieve, and Amazon wants no part of it.

      If you had bothered to read the entire quote, he did *not* ask for Amazon's help in finding the Kindle - what he asked them to do was *disable* it. Which has some merit - if Amazon did disable those devices when stolen, it would kill the black market for stolen Kindles. But as noted in TFA, this poses a problem, as it's too easy for someone to contact them, pretending to be you, and reporting *your* Kindle as stolen...

      What *should* happen is that Mr. Borgese files a police report on the stolen Kindle, and can then contact Amazon, with the police report number as evidence that he's not some practical joker. Amazon then disables that device, so that whoever stole it (or whoever bought it from the thief) can no longer gain the benefit of having it. This reduces the potential for mischief (and, in the case that the person simply misplaced the device, puts the onus on *him* to reverse the process), while still destroying the resale value of the stolen item.

      This is more or less what Mr. Borgese attempted to do. But Amazon has no mechanism for this - they want to be contacted by a law enforcement officer with a supoena. Which the police probably won't bother doing, unless the theft is tied to drug dealing, terrorism, pedophilia, or whatever BS is high on their public relations agenda this week.

      Lloyd B.

      • Re:Street justice? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by spectral (158121) on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:50PM (#29395487)

        Why not just provide a way to disable the kindle that is associated with an amazon account until that same account enables it again? Then I can disable it if I left it somewhere.. if I recover it, I can enable it. No one else can. The kindle should not say what the name of the account is or anything that the thieves can use to identify what account to try to hack in to either. There shouldn't need to be any human involvement in here, I've already authenticated who I am by being able to login (with a password, auto-login should not be sufficient).

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by spectral (158121)

          Obviously this assumes that 1) Currently unbricked kindles can be re-associated with a different account, and 2) The person it was stolen from can still brick a kindle even after re-association for a period of time, in case the first thing the thief does is re-associate it. Say, 48 hours to report your kindle stolen to Amazon, and they'll still disable it [and remove any charges made to your account, if that's possible from the Kindle, etc.].

          • Re:Street justice? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by mysidia (191772) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @12:41AM (#29395947)

            Ideally they should just force you to authenticate with your existing account before you can disassociate/re-associate the device.

            E.g. the moment you click 'disassociate', the device actually becomes bricked until the device password is entered.

            When you associate with a new account, the password you type becomes the 'device' password.

            There ought to also be a way to password-lock the kindle as you can with cell phones. And they should take care to make sure a thief can't easily defeat the device password.

        • Indeed. Mobile phone corps can disable use of the phone (well, your sim card), and then re-enable it if you find it a day or two later.

      • Re:Street justice? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Nemyst (1383049) on Friday September 11, 2009 @11:06PM (#29395541) Homepage
        And yet, when a copyright holder comes and asks for withdrawal of a book on all Kindles in the world, Amazon has a mechanism for that. I know they've already apologized, but it just felt ironic.
        • Re:Street justice? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by moosetail (1635997) on Friday September 11, 2009 @11:27PM (#29395631)
          In 9 years of /.-ing, I have rarely seen a post that really cuts to the issue the way this does. I modded it up with my 'real' account, and made a shadow for this. Nemyst is dead on; and other services, especially iTunes, should read carefully. Amazon demonstrated they are lightweights, and the original article shows they don't really give a shit about their customers. Their customers have an obligation to return in kind.
        • Yup, yet another good reason not to purchase a Kindle.

        • by TheLink (130905)
          Yeah Amazon show who they really care about.

          They do their vigilantism not for their customers but for "copyright holders". Unless maybe they don't consider people who buy books their customers?

          That said, if the people who buy the Kindles are actually legally considered the owners of the Kindles then to me it's less "vigilante-like" if Amazon disables a Kindle on the owner's request, but it is vigilantism for Amazon to delete books from the owner's device.

          If the books are illegal material - they should repor
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sjames (1099)

          It just proves yet again that anything like DRM or 'trusted computing' has nothing to do with providing benefit to the consumer, even in the few cases where it might in theory be useful.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Kreigaffe (765218)

        In order to disable the device, they have to be able to distinguish one device from another. That means tracking (and beyond just an account-login level).
        I.. thought.. that we didn't *like* that sort of thing. My Slashdot mindthink interpreter could be malfunctioning, but I doubt it.

        • Re:Street justice? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Romancer (19668) <romancer&deathsdoor,com> on Friday September 11, 2009 @11:58PM (#29395723) Journal

          You actually think that they have no record of a serial number of the device that your account is linked to?
          How would they send you the books you purchased? Your account is tied to the device so you can use it.
          That's not any more "tracking" than your cell phone company does to give you the calls to your cell phone.
          They have "activated" it to be tied to your account.

          Just as Amazon should be able to have the accout owner log in online and enter in their username/password and validate a captcha to disable ther device.
          They purchased it didn't they? It's tied to their credit card to be able to buy books with it right? So If you can make a binding purchase with the devices authentication and that is enough for them to charge your credit card, isn't it enough verification for them to disable the device?

        • by davmoo (63521)

          We only dislike that sort of thing when its used against us. When used the way we want, even if its the identical privacy infringing feature we used to hate, all of a sudden we like it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by BigRedFed (635728)

        But as noted in TFA, this poses a problem, as it's too easy for someone to contact them, pretending to be you, and reporting *your* Kindle as stolen...

        This is such bunk... I worked for a couple years in customer service for the cell phone industry. If you call and report your phone lost or stolen, it is automatically added to a black list and can then only be reactivated by you. It can not be activated on another account while it is on the black list and can only be added to the black list if it is part of an active account. The only time you need a police report is if you have the insurance program and you want to get a replacement under the insuran

        • I think in the case of gsm phones it's new sim, no problem.
          • Replacing the SIM might get a GSM phone to work but there is no technological reason carriers can't block the phone by ESN.

            I know for a fact that carriers keep detailed logs of network access including both SIM identity information and ESN's.

            Theoretically carriers could ban a handset using it's ESN. Whether they actually do this in practice or not, I have no idea.

            • Agreed. The point being that this precedent is set, at least in the us, as the way it works because of revenues and despite of capability.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by leenks (906881)

              Here in the UK carriers block stolen phones from their IMEI all the time, and have a cross-carrier list of such phones.

      • by icebike (68054)

        But as noted in TFA, this poses a problem, as it's too easy for someone to contact them, pretending to be you, and reporting *your* Kindle as stolen...

        What *should* happen is that Mr. Borgese files a police report on the stolen Kindle, and can then contact Amazon, with the police report number as evidence that he's not some practical joker.

        First: how is a practical joker going to get my Kindle's serial number, mac address, and imei number? You are imagining a problem that does not exist.

        Second: Why should the police be involved? If I leave my Kindle in an airport while visiting New Mexico, do I report it stolen? To who? My home town police? New Mexico?

        Third: At what price level is Police involvement warranted? Its not exactly Grand Theft Kindle you know. Cops have a few more important things to do. Cops have no authority to get invo

      • The whole thing is egg squarely on amazon's face for one simple reason... remember the books they DELETED REMOTELY a few weeks ago. They DO have the power to find wayward accounts, and they DO have the ability to edit materials on the Kindle against user wishes.. more importantly, they have demonstrated they CAN and WILL use this ability.

        Now that they've demonstrated this ability to cover THEIR ASSES... why can't they issue a "locking" order to YOUR device? Something like pay $25 and issue a locking code

    • OK, do really people expect that Amazon should remotely block the Kindle without any proof that Mr. Borgese is the current rightful owner? Without a court order, it would be simply irresponsible to do so. You wouldn't want to buy a used kindle just to have it blocked without reason. Amazon is doing the right thing, and Mr. Borgese is an a**hole.
      • As another commenter suggested, the most reasonable solution is to merely lock the Kindle and sent an unlock code to whatever email is currently on the account.

        It's the Kindle owner's responsibility to maintain Amazon's contact information records. This really puts the responsibility on the Kindle owner without putting them in any particularly troublesome legal territory.

        For Amazon right now, it's a lose/lose proposition; helping might cause liability and not helping might cause bad PR. The second is probab

  • Bottom Line (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ArchieBunker (132337) on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:07PM (#29395305) Homepage

    Buy a $3 paperback book. Be kind and leave it for the next person.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Here let me fix that for you.
      Buy a $10 paperback book. Be kind and leave it for the next person.

      • Let me fix that for you.
        Buy a used $0.50 paper back book and not give a damn where you leave it or who has it because it was 50 cents.

  • police (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    the police barely respond to car theft

  • by arminw (717974) on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:08PM (#29395309)

    the device was really stolen an no sold used

    • by Krelnor (1189683) on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:25PM (#29395389)
      I wish I had mod points, because this is exactly the issue. Let's say someone puts their Kindle up on eBay, and then after it sells calls Amazon and says that the device got stolen. How is Amazon supposed to know whether the device whether the device was stolen or not? Even worse, what happens if Amazon believes someone claiming to own your device and bricks it, where does that put them? It's entirely reasonable that Amazon won't do anything without a direct request from the cops (or presumably a court order).
      • by ironicsky (569792) on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:34PM (#29395425) Journal
        I support your position on this.
        Same with any electronic device that can be remotely disabled. Wouldn't it be a bitch if I called onStar and said "Oooh, hey buddy. My car got stolen, here is my name, license plate # and my onStar ID(blah blah)" and they kill the car. But its not my car, its my ex's... I'm sure she would get a kick out of it
        • by icebike (68054) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @01:02AM (#29396035)

          > Wouldn't it be a bitch if I called onStar and said "Oooh, hey buddy

          Stolen cars show up in police reports.

          So would you if you pulled this stunt.

        • but you can't USE the device unless you transfer the account to a new credit card. As the device is completely locked to Amazon it could be treated much like a WoW account sale where you have to sell your serial number through Amazon's service or it's not legit. Just handing the device off wouldn't be official and you'd have to prove you bought the device somehow.

      • by Lloyd_Bryant (73136) on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:35PM (#29395429)

        I wish I had mod points, because this is exactly the issue. Let's say someone puts their Kindle up on eBay, and then after it sells calls Amazon and says that the device got stolen. How is Amazon supposed to know whether the device whether the device was stolen or not? Even worse, what happens if Amazon believes someone claiming to own your device and bricks it, where does that put them? It's entirely reasonable that Amazon won't do anything without a direct request from the cops (or presumably a court order).

        That's the role a police report should play. When you file a report with the police, the police report number can be given to Amazon as evidence that an actual theft occurred. Amazon can then query the police to verify the report is genuine (insurance companies do this all the time in the case of auto accidents, theft of insured property, etc, so the mechanisms for this are already in place), and once they've done that can disable the device.

        In your Ebay example, what would happen then is that the buyer of the now useless device could contact your police department, with the records of the sale, and you'd potentially be facing criminal charges for filing a false police report (cops *really* don't like people doing this, and they know where you live, so there's a real chance they'd follow up on this).

        • by icebike (68054) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @01:05AM (#29396041)

          Don't you think cops have more to do than fill out paper work on a kindle you lost? Even if it was Stolen out of your back pack, who has time to have cops filling out paperwork for a 300 dollar device?

          You might get away with filing such a report in Pincushion Arizona, but they will laugh you out of the station in Dallas.

          • Don't you think cops have more to do than fill out paper work on a kindle you lost? Even if it was Stolen out of your back pack, who has time to have cops filling out paperwork for a 300 dollar device?

            You might get away with filing such a report in Pincushion Arizona, but they will laugh you out of the station in Dallas.

            First off, let's clarify things. An item that you *lost* is not something you'd ordinarily file a police report on.

            Second, the value of the device shouldn't be significant, except for determining whether it's petty or grand larceny. I know, in practice it is, but that's an issue with the police being focused on the wrong things (like harassing prostitutes and low-level drug dealers).

            Third, why do the *cops* have to fill out anything? Have standard forms, which the person filing the complaint fills out, a

            • by icebike (68054)

              Getting Amazon to brick your LOST device is just as important as getting them to brick you STOLEN device. Lost and Stolen are equivalent as far as your device being in someone else's hands.

              I'm telling you that walking in any busy police department in any city bigger than 100,000 people and asking for signatures on paper so that you can force Amazon to do something is a fools errand.

              (Which is precisely why Amazon insists you do it, knowing full well you can never succeed).

              Cops will tell you to file an insur

          • If your bike is stolen in Seattle they'll not only happily fill out a form they'll even send a squad car to bring the form to you if need be. How's that for service?

          • That's sad because $300 is still more than a week' s pay for many young and older people.

            Ironically, Cops spend a good deal of time at the local mall arresting people for shoplifting stuff under $50.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by drinkypoo (153816)

            Don't you think cops have more to do than fill out paper work on a kindle you lost?

            Better? No. More lucrative? Probably.

            The cops are supposed to be there to provide for the punishment of criminals (protect and serve? they do neither) and finding them is part of that job. So no, they don't have anything better to do than to fill out paperwork on something possibly stolen. People usually don't lose something the size and cost of the Kindle.

      • by icebike (68054)

        And why would they do that?

        They sold it. They got their money.

        Turning around and screwing the person who bought t does not bring the kindle back to their hands to sell again.

        Amazon knows who owns it, that owner can prove who he is and which kindle he owns. Its this little magic thing called an Original Amazon Bill of Sale, you know, the one with your credit card and the serial number on the same piece of paper?

        Just where do you get your gadgets that such things are unfamiliar to you?

    • how would you prove the device was really stolen an no sold used

      You do what they do for passports: you require a police record indicating that you have reported it stolen. That way if the person you track down did not steal it the person who lied to you can end up in hot water for lying to the police, wasting police time etc. plus you have a reasonable defence.
      Of course the better way to do it is the way that Apple does with the iPhone: you let the user trace their own device without company intervention. That way the end-user is directly responsible provided that th

  • Presumably (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dorsai65 (804760) <dkmerriman@@@gmail...com> on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:08PM (#29395311) Homepage Journal

    He bought it from them and they have the serial number of the device they sent him. Why should it be a big deal for them to brick it on HIS request? If there's an issue with whoever wants to use it, it's between the other user and him, not him and Amazon.

    Then again, I can understand how they wouldn't want to get into something where they don't know the gory details (i.e. he sold it and wants to ransom it for more money).

    Seems like there might be a niche market here for a service to track (possibly using add-in 'root' software) high-end devices that are stolen.

    Me, I don't have enough money that I can afford to forget and leave a $300 device laying around on an airplane... :-P

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by PCM2 (4486)

      Why should it be a big deal for them to brick it on HIS request? If there's an issue with whoever wants to use it, it's between the other user and him, not him and Amazon.

      And what's the issue? He's mad because he left it on the table when we went up to the counter to get another latté?

      I get it. Theft is bad. But how is bricking the device the answer? It won't un-steal the Kindle. So they brick it and what then? It goes into a landfill? Charming.

      • by Dare nMc (468959)

        it is a fair question about our society. What good does it do to punish any law breakers. IE when you jail a murder does the victum return to life... (be it any un recoverable crime, murder/rape/molestation/arson/securities fraud) Sometimes it helps the victims feel better... However in this case with a device, and likely a opportunity thief, they may call amazon for help/support or decide once it is of no value for them they may return it. Or a reward may be much more affective (at a lower price.) Or

        • by PCM2 (4486)

          it is a fair question about our society. What good does it do to punish any law breakers.

          Theft is a crime. When criminals face justice, society benefits. If the police were able to track down this thief, establish that he or she committed the crime, and bring him or her before a court of law to judge the offense, that would be OK. This isn't that. This is an individual saying, "They took my stuff, so I want them to get burned because of it." That's not justice, not in the societal sense.

          I get the "if people think it's useless to steal them, they won't steal them so much" idea. Fine. But I'm not

    • ...and Amazon isn't in the business of such things. They service of bricking even your own devices isn't teh service being offered. They'd have parents wanting to brick children's toys within a week's time. Besides, I think Amazon handled it incredibly well. They'll obey law enforcement. Beyond that, the ability to brick the device isn't a consumer feature. Sorry.

    • If there's an issue with whoever wants to use it, it's between the other user and him, not him and Amazon.

      Supposing it happened the other way around. He left his Kindle in a coffee shop and the person who found it, rather than steal it, decided to note down the serial number and call Amazon to have the Kindle bricked as a mean-spirited prank. Amazon should require some level of "proof" of theft but a police report of the device being stolen should be enough to discourage any prank calls since falsifying one will land you in trouble. They should not need direct police involvement and a court subpoena.

      • by Dare nMc (468959)

        How do you verify a police report? Should amazon then call to verify the report is really over a kindle?
        Their are answers to those and more exist, they may even be simple enough for just a few cases. But amazon is a big retailer and obviously doesn't want to deal with the issues for little reward for them.
        Having been a AT&T victim 10 years ago, where they got the wrong address for my cell phone account, and thus labeled my $125 purchase of phone as fraudulent, and couldn't ever get that label removed

      • Dubious, as in a reasonable system you'd verify with some account details not available on the device.
    • by T Murphy (1054674)

      Electronics companies could make versions that have restricted usage requirements (like it won't function without phoning home within a week), and the original registered owner has the right to order the company to activate some sort of kill switch. It would have to be clearly advertised so people become aware the devices are not for resale, but this might solve the theft problem. There is little use in stealing a product that is designed to self-destruct*. As long as the effort required for a thief to get

  • Why should they? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ironicsky (569792) on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:10PM (#29395315) Journal
    I mean, seriously. Why should companies like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Dell, HP, or any manufacturer spend any amount of time helping to track down your stolen property to begin with. It is your responsibility to keep track of your property, not theres. Now, nice automated solutions like Apple's Mobile Me allows you to basically brick a stolen iPhone and track its position, but that was nice to have feature that they added but was in no way required too. If someone steals your car, do you call the car manufacturer and ask them to disable the car remotely so no one can drive it? No... you report it to police and call your insurance company. IMHO this applies to electronics as well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Fished (574624)
      Because it's a trivial amount of effort for them to do so? Because they know that I own it, they know it's registered to me (via my mobile account, credit card, etc.) and all they need to do is have a hash file somewhere?
      • by ironicsky (569792)
        You are right. It is trivial for them to assist with tracking just one kindle. But if they do it for one person, why not the next? And the next? Until they have thousands of people asking for help finding their kindle, which is no longer a trivial task.
    • by RobVB (1566105)

      If someone steals your car, do you call the car manufacturer and ask them to disable the car remotely so no one can drive it?

      Some high-end car manufacturers offer this kind of service. And who knows, maybe this story will make Amazon think they can sell Premium packages, for people who are willing to pay more for the guarantee that they'll track down your Kindle if you leave it on a bus.

    • by joeyblades (785896) on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:22PM (#29395369)

      If someone steals your car, do you call the car manufacturer and ask them to disable the car remotely so no one can drive it?

      No, you have the police call OnStar and they disable it...

      The surprising thing for me is that the companies that have this capability and are resisting this are missing an opportunity to make a lot of money on what some people obviously think is a valuable service.

    • by ctmurray (1475885) on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:24PM (#29395381) Journal
      If this happened to me and Apple/Amazon helped me recover my device I would be quite grateful. In the end I would be more loyal to them, purchase more of their products and be less critical of their failings in the future. It is quite expensive to get a new customer, and if you can retain a customer at low cost you have save that money replacing or regaining them.
    • by Dutch Gun (899105)

      I mean, seriously. Why should companies like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Dell, HP, or any manufacturer spend any amount of time helping to track down your stolen property to begin with.

      For the same reason a company may provide services above and beyond what they technically *have* to... it builds customer loyalty. It's up to them to decide whether that's worth more than the potential hassle of dealing with issues like these.

      Personally, I suspect it's for fear of lawsuits. Generally speaking, in this country, it seems like it's almost always safer to *do nothing* rather than trying to do the "right thing", which is sort of a sad state of affairs.

    • by Tanktalus (794810)

      Why? Simple. Conflict of interest, and the appearance of impropriety. They stand to make money from the thief (or whoever they fence it to, or whoever the fence sells it to). They will make money from stolen goods. This is not the case for products that do not have on-going service charges applied. This appears to be a conflict of interest between them and their primary customers.

      By helping track down a device reported stolen, they can appear to be above base profit motives, and, instead, appear to he

    • by fermion (181285)
      On one hand you are correct, and there are scenarios that would indicate for manufacturers to not interfere. For instance, I am mad at a friend of mine, so I report a device stolen to the manufacturer, and the manufacturer turns it off. The manufacturer is then in the middle of a domestic squabble, which may incur significant cost, and probably raise the price for the rest of us.

      Or take a look at it this way. I could sell the device, and just to be a prick,report it stolen to the manufacture. It would

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If Amazon sells you an e-Book on your precious Kindle, they will steal it back from you if the publisher changes their mind about selling an electronic version.

  • Seems Sensible (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Quothz (683368) on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:14PM (#29395331) Journal
    Not doing it on request is a very sensible policy. Harassment seems just as likely as theft, or at least likely enough to be wary of. Many folks might buy a device for a significant other, then when their relationship hits the skids they may try to report it "stolen".

    I also can't imagine the police ignoring a request like that. Even if it's a $300.00 device, I've never met a cop who won't pursue a theft if they think it's likely they'll catch the perpetrator and recover the item. For all the police's faults, ignoring a solvable, easily-prosecuted crime ain't one of 'em. Mind you, if a company won't cooperate with a police request relating to an investigation - subpoena or no - the company should be prosecuted itself.

    • Re:Seems Sensible (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:17PM (#29395345)

      You've apparently never tried to report a stolen wallet or backpack, or even modest laptop. You fill out forms, answer questions,a nd they do _nothing_. It's just not important enough.

      • by scheme (19778)

        You've apparently never tried to report a stolen wallet or backpack, or even modest laptop. You fill out forms, answer questions,a nd they do _nothing_. It's just not important enough.

        What exactly are they supposed to do? A stolen or lost wallet/backpack/laptop is pretty hard to recover especially if you don't know who did it and more than a few minutes have passed since the theft. Unless whatever is stolen is fairly rare and easily identifiable, the cops can't really do much.

        • Actually look at the CCTV recordings of the coffee shop where the laptop was lost? Actually tell you how to contact the lost and found offices of _both_ bus lines that pick people at that terminal? Actually help you act against the spammer forging email in your name?

          I've had all of these happen to me or to friends in my presence. They just didn't bring enough traffic ticket money or rise to the level of political significance to pull police out of their cars or out of their construction site traffic duty to

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        He said "solvable" and "easily-prosecuted."

        "Hey, cop, someone swiped my wallet. I last saw it at 3 pm at work and noticed it was missing at 7 pm when I went to pay for dinner."

        That's a bit different than "here is the SSN, name, address, phone numbers and a picture of the person who has my notebook." (true story)

        In the first case it's a lot of work to investigate and very little chance of finding anything. In the second there's an excellent lead and a good chance of catching a thief.

      • usually what happens is that they do find somebody with a horde of stolen stuff.. and they prosecute for X number of stolen items from X places. They just never bother to tell YOU where they put the evidence and it goes out the back door of the police station. The reports help find a pattern of habitual offenders in the area and that is useful to them... but YOU will never here about that... after all, EVERYBODY is a suspect.

    • "if a company won't cooperate with a police request relating to an investigation - subpoena or no - the company should be prosecuted itself."

      Did you really think about that sentence, or you posted in haste? There are multiple reasons why subpoena's are required of the police. I hope that you aren't advocating that we should surrender our civil rights.

      The police may request all day long, but I am under no obligation to grant their request. Only when they bring a subpoena to the equation am I obligated to

      • by Quothz (683368)

        There are multiple reasons why subpoena's are required of the police. I hope that you aren't advocating that we should surrender our civil rights.

        I s'pose I did post in haste, at that. I posted sloppily and didn't check my terminology. I had thought the police would need a warrant for the information, not a subpoena, believing that the latter required that they have a charged suspect awaiting arraignment or trial. I see now that it's possible to get a subpoena as part of an investigation - although inasmuch as a warrant needs a judge's signature and a subpoena generally doesn't, I'd still prefer they use warrants.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      if a company won't cooperate with a police request relating to an investigation - subpoena or no - the company should be prosecuted itself

      That doesn't sound like the kind of society I want to live in. A subpoena is the process by which the police make a request you cannot legally refuse to cooperate with--- subpoena means "under penalty", and a subpoena is a "request" that carries a penalty for noncooperation. Most free societies have some sort of judicial oversight of this process. You sound like you're ar

  • by eeebbb (1635955) on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:18PM (#29395351)
    Tracking is going way overboard... but bricking on demand is a good idea. Why wouldn't a manufacturer want their electronic devices to have a "useless to steal it" reputation?
  • Who you want to be your next Big Brother?
  • Any police department anywhere pretty much won't try to recover anything worth $300 unless it falls into their lap.
  • Seriously, why don't expensive GPS/internet enabled devices come tied to an online user account from which the user could track, brick a-splode their own device?
  • by IMNTPC (45205) on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:45PM (#29395467)

    Last year I absentmindedly left my GPS and Cellphone in the car (was running late to work). About an hour later I realized I didn't have my Cell on me and went out to the car to retrieve it. Lo and behold my TomTom 920T GPS, and my Motorola Q9c were both gone and the window in my car was smashed out. Rough retail value of the phone and gps together were around the $1000.00 range. The police came and took a report, I even actually still had the boxes for both units with the serial numbers. I've not heard anything since.
              What really irks me is that I know for certain that the Cell Phone should be traceable. At least the police could have called Verizon and checked to see if it showed up in any of the 50-100 pawn shops in town. We're not talking major investigate work here, we're talking about what should be a 10-20min call. I called TomTom and also asked them if they could at least make it where that unit will never get an update.. they said it was a feature that many have requested, but at this point in time they didn't offer that.
              I know that there are more important things like murders, etc.. but hey they had to take the time to take the report, could at least do a little diligence.

    • by initialE (758110)

      Second hand phones are usually sold to customers overseas. Probably true for stolen phones as well.

  • Don't shut it off! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PktLoss (647983) on Friday September 11, 2009 @10:53PM (#29395495) Homepage Journal

    The person currently able to login to the Amazon account claims to have purchased lost the device.

    Amazon doesn't know if he's sold it, given it away
    Amazon doesn't know if someone else logged into his account (ex-partner/significant other?)
    Amazon doesn't know if the device was repossessed by a credit card company.

    Amazon doesn't have anywhere near enough information to start bricking, or reporting on the location of devices.

  • It's simple when the registered owner of the device reports it stolen they add the serial number to a list. Devices in the list can not be updated and will present a message giving the owners phone number to contact about returning the device. Owner is happy because they either get the device back, or they know it can't be used. I asked Apple to do much the same thing when I lost my iPod last year. I feel it is negligence on the manufacturer's part when they do not implement some form of an anti-theft syste

    • by vxvxvxvx (745287)
      I know with my Nuvi GPS if I report it stolen (not sure if a police report is required, but I have no issue with that anyway) the new owners will not be able to update it. I also like the security features where you have to enter a code each time it starts. My JVC stereo has a similar feature, if it loses power you have to enter a code to use it. I assume there are ways around these security features, but for the common thief (which seems to be adolescents in my area) I doubt they go through the trouble. Th
  • Finders are not keepers. The device remains his property, and Amazon ought to help him recover it. In fact, if they are found to have dealt with the device (accepted a CC & downloaded a file), they could be charged with abetting the theft.

    The correct thing for a finder to do is to turn it in to the airline or airport lost-n-found (however inefficient they might appear). If it is not duly claimed within a specified period, then they can claim the device. To protect themselves, Amazon ought to requir

    • Actually, in some places if an item is found, the finder can put up a notice to that effect, and if no-one claims it they become the rightful owner (naturally there would be all sorts of protections against abuse of this).

      The content probably wouldn't be transferred though, but IANAL, and there might not be any specific law at all on the matter in your jurisdiction. This might also mean that if you find a laptop and it is unclaimed, you might not be allowed to destroy the data if there is a DMCA-like law in

  • by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@@@comcast...net> on Friday September 11, 2009 @11:41PM (#29395685)
    I used to work for Polaris (Snowmobiles, ATV's, Motorcycles etc). They actively tracked and helped out with stolen equipment on a routine basis. Working these issues was my responsibility at the time. Worked with law enforcement, took reports from civilians and similar things.

    You know how much work this took on my part? Very little - this fell under "other duties" while I worked there, and I was the only person at the time who worked these. The vendors like Amazon are refusing to help seeing only an expense and a loss of sales. This sheer and utter greed on their part with justifiable reason. If they can't do this because it's the right thing, than somebody needs to legislate good companies morals on their part.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MartinSchou (1360093)

      Generally speaking vehicular theft is seen as high priority in the police. When's the last time you saw footage of six police cars chasing down a pick pocket?

      In this case it's not even about someone picking someone else's pockets - it's the crew noticing something left behind on the plane and thinking "I'm having that".

  • If they had bricked it, they wouldn't be helping to solve the problem. The guy would have bitched about them not requiring any legal order and how easy would be for a social engineer to brick any device.

    They actually taught the guy a valuable lesson: You are responsible for your property. You are a grown up, act like one.

  • Sorry, but if I leave a non-E book on a plane, it's too bad, someone else gets it. Why is the e-book any different?

    • Because a Kindle or Cell phone is tied to it's network 24x7 and THEY retain complete rights to modify the devices content under the software EULA and network TOS. If they can remotely deactivate it or modify it's content, why can't they mark the device "lost or stolen" at the owner/contract holder's request? A big part of criminal enterprise and drug trading is stealing phones to use with "throw away" SIM cards they get away with it for a few days then move on. Returning a lost phone for a regular person i

  • I don't want the manufacturer to have a kill-switch for my device. Rather I want myself to have the kill-switch to my device to use as I see fit myself. Could I screw over a second hand buyer? Sure I could, but he'd know who I was and could sue me for damages if I did, now couldn't he?

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