Take That, Cell Phone Thieves! San Franciscans Are Locking You Out

Obviously did not get the SFPD memo: Eyes up, phones down!

Obviously did not get the SFPD memo: Eyes up, phones down!

San Franciscans are mad as hell, and we won’t take cell phone thefts anymore! Well, clarification: you can steal our phones via force (wielded a lot as of late in the Mission via gun and knife, or, in my case, a huge jelly donut gut that trapped me on Muni). But man, do we have the power of fox-like technological wit. We have activated our fancy iOS 7 Activation Lock systems, rendering our iPhones useless in your grubby, cowardly hands!!!!! Only we have the passwords.

Funny how that would have sounded like a sci-fi-like solution just a few years ago, but San Franciscans are wising up (or at least passive aggressively outwitting thugs after the fact with tech — something we excel at). San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon released the results of his online survey today — showing that 78 percent of iPhone users in the city have now installed the iOS7 system, and turned on Find my IPhone, which allows people to both locate and then lock out users who don’t have the password to get in, through the Activation Lock. That’s 245 out of 313 survey respondents.

Gascon is not in the business of doing market research for Apple — he says he wants to protect the people. He has turned into a national pressure-monger on cell phone companies to create solutions to make cell phones less attractive for violent robberies. Apple has created the system, but he’s still not satisfied with them. He wants the Activation Lock to be opt-out — automatically installed on the phone until the user chooses otherwise — instead of opt-in. Why so demanding, Gascon? Until that day, he responded (via press release), San Franciscans who just want the Google Maps app to show them the way to the next whisky bar will continue to look like Christmas morning to criminals.

“Until Activation Lock is fully opt-out it appears many iPhone owners will not have the solution enabled,” Gascon warned. “This leaves iPhone users at risk as thieves cannot distinguish between those devices that have the feature enabled and those that do not.” And then there’s all the other types of cell phones — which don’t have such lock systems, allowing thieves to resell the phones on the black market— for as high as $2,000 in, say, Hong Kong.

There’s another reason to enable Find My Iphone, y’all. When you’re as absentminded as I am. It couldn’t help me the day I threw my phone in with my clothes at the laundromat and sadly watched the water pour into the locked chamber and drown my Blackberry like some horror movie. But the other day I used Find My iPhone to track down my cell — where it was, miraculously, still lying on a bench.

I got lucky. But then, Jelly Donut Guy attacked me on Muni and I no longer was. He may have a locked phone, but I still had to buy another. No one wins.

4 Comments

  1. There’s no way any kind of hot cell phone goes for $2K in Hong Kong. (Or anywhere else, for that matter.) Who’s throwing that number around?

  2. Deke

    The problem with Find my phone is that a thief can switch your phone off as soon as they steal it so you can’t track it. What would be better would be to have an option when the phone cannot be switched off without the code. That way you would have until the battery runs out (or until they opened it and disconnected the battery) to track them down.

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