AT&T will launch a new service for reporting and blocking stolen devices on Tuesday, according to a trusted source. The service will allow customers to deny voice, data and SMS access to any individual phone or tablet while keeping their account intact, avoiding the inconvenience of a full SIM block.

The company sent a message (pictured below) to customer service representatives on Wednesday advising them of the change. According to the guidance, AT&T will compile a "blocklist" of stolen devices and service will be automatically suspended "if any attempt is made to use a device that is stored in the blocklist." The only way to add a device to the list will be by contacting a customer service representative directly, and users with remote data wipe apps will be required to activate them before suspending their device, to "prevent access to their personal information."

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"Only the person who originated a block may request block removal."

According to our source, AT&T "will have no directory of blocked phones," but it is not yet clear what this means in practice. AT&T's guidance states that "only the person who originated a block may request block removal," a rule which suggests that the company will keep a central list of blocked phones matched to customers.

The move follows April's announcement of a national database of stolen phones, to be compiled and maintained by the four major US carriers — AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint — in co-operation with the FCC. The proposal raised privacy concerns at the time, and this latest move by AT&T is likely to provoke further questions.