AT&T will launch service to block stolen devices

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(CBS News) AT&T is planning to launch a new service that will block access to stolen mobile devices, according to tech blog The Verge.

The way the service should work is that if a device is stolen, the owner can call AT&T and have it added to a "blocklist."

Once on the list, a device will no longer be able to make voice calls, use data or send text messages. And the device will be remotely wiped. However, SIM cards will not be blocked. The only way to add or remove a device from the blocklist is to contact an AT&T customer service representative.

According to an internal email obtained by The Verge, AT&T customers will be able to "request the stolen device be blocked from use by others on the AT&T network."

The language suggests that stolen devices can't be activated on the wireless network at all. There's no indication that AT&T will be able to locate devices or take action against a person who wants to activate a stolen smartphone or tablet.

"As announced in April, AT&T is creating a stolen phone database to prevent devices reported stolen from accessing wireless networks," an AT&T spokesperson told CBS News. "We will install this availability next week for AT&T phones on our network and are working toward a cross-carrier solution later this year."

There is some concern that AT&T will keep a directory of blocked phones, which match up to customers. That claim was denied by The Verge's source, but there was no clarification on what the company would do with the data it is collecting.

"It is too soon at this point to go into any detail," a spokesperson for AT&T told CBS News. Although the company's language is ambiguous, any conclusions made about its plans for data storage are pure speculation.

The technology to track mobile devices is available, but how it will be regulated is still part of a larger conversation about user privacy.

It was announced in April that the Federal Communications Commission would partner with major wireless carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon to track stolen mobile phones.