Democrats question cellphone companies about preventing theft

Three top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to cellphone companies and wireless carriers on Friday to ask about their efforts to prevent theft.

Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman (Calif.), Anna Eshoo (Calif.) and Edward Markey (Mass.) pointed to statistics that show cellphone thefts are on the rise across the country.

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"Without the ability to lock or wipe cell phone memory, victims of cell phone theft not only have to worry about replacing their device, but are also at risk of having their personal and financial information stolen," the lawmakers wrote in letters to companies including Apple, Microsoft, Google, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.

They noted that the rise in cellphone thefts also means law enforcement agencies have to use more resources on the problem.

They asked the companies about their policies for combating cellphone theft, including whether they allow users to remotely disable their phones.

A recent study by Norton indicated that one in three individuals experience cellphone loss or theft, and a Symantec study of 50 Android phones in major cities found that more than 95 percent of people who found missing phones tried to access sensitive personal information.

Jot Carpenter, vice president of government affairs for CTIA-the Wireless Association, said the wireless industry takes the issue "very seriously"

"CTIA and its member companies have been in active discussions with [Federal Communications Commission] and law enforcement regarding potential solutions, and we will be happy to expand those discussions to include other policymakers," he said. "At the same time, we want to make sure that whatever solutions are adopted to address this problem do not have unintended consequences."