There was a very interesting story over the weekend in the New York Times about people losing their electronic devices and trying to get them back or at least deactivated, and the singular refusal of many device makers to help.
"... it will help locate a missing Kindle only if the company is contacted by a police officer bearing a subpoena."
This is Amazon's policy despite the fact that it knows when someone is downloading content to a Kindle.
The Times story says one person who lost his Kindle sent Amazon emails requesting the address where he could have the police send a subpoena and after getting no reply started getting suspicious that Amazon really doesn't want lost or stolen Kindles found. He is quoted in the story as saying,
"I finally concluded that Amazon knew the device was being used and preferred to sell content to anyone who possessed the device, rather than assist in returning it to its rightful owner."
Amazon's policy would also seem to encourage the theft of Kindles.
The Times story says Sirius XM Radio follows the same policy as Amazon before it will deactivate or hand over information about a missing radio. However, the Times story notes that with Sirius Satellite Radio, a Canadian company that is affiliated with Sirius XM but is a separate company, a subscriber can have his or her radio deactivated if he or she signs a statement that it has been stolen and asks the company to stop providing service to it.
Interestingly, the Times story notes that in England,
"... major cell phone players keep a centralized black list for mobile phone serial numbers, allowing consumers to flag lost or stolen phones so they cannot be re-registered."
US telcos don't provide the same service, unfortunately.
It would be useful to have a list of all tech companies who follow the "show me a police officer with a subpoena" policy.
So, Risk Factor readers, have any of you lost or had an electronic device stolen, and had the manufacturer refuse to deactivate it?
Also, what other countries' telcos have policies similar to that of England's?
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.