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."
"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.