Cellphones, tablets and other wireless devices that have been reported lost or stolen can no longer be activated — and therefore used — on most wireless networks in Canada, following the launch of a new national “blacklist” of such devices Monday.
Starting today, most Canadian wireless service providers, including all members of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, will start checking whether a device is blacklisted on an international database of lost and stolen devices before activating it, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association announced in a news release.
Members of the association will also begin adding phones reported lost or stolen by customers to the international database starting today.
The IMEI database contains unique identifiers, known as International Mobile Equipment Identity numbers, for devices using GSM, HSPA, HSPA+ and LTE technology that have been reported lost or stolen around the world.
Devices using other technologies, such as the CDMA technology used by Public Mobile's network, do not have an IMEI and cannot be included in the database.
Bernard Lord, president of the association, said in a statement that the new national blacklist will make smartphones a less valuable target for criminals and help Canadian consumers identify pre-owned devices that have been previously reported as lost or stolen.
"Really the objective is, it makes a stolen phone less valuable if they cannot connect it to a network," Lord said in an interview with CBC News.
"Canadians are concerned when they lose their phones, but they're even more concerned when they lose the data in their device."
The association has launched a new website called ProtectYourData.ca where consumers can enter the IMEI of a device to find out if it has been blacklisted.
Only phones reported stolen or missing to Canadian wireless carriers starting Sept. 30, 2013, are included in the national database. Lord said that database will be connected to the U.S., U.K. and other developed countries, though there may not be a way of tracing a phone that is shipped overseas.
Ashlee Smith, a spokeswoman for the CWTA, said those who have had a phone lost or stolen before today should "absolutely" contact their wireless carrier to get it added to the database, but it's up to individual carriers how to deal with that.
Plans for the voluntary database were first announced last November. At the time, Lord estimated it would cost the industry $20 million, but said there were no plans to charge consumers for the service.
Smith said all CWTA members have committed to participating in the blacklist, but non-members also have the option of participating. She added that consumers whose service providers are not members will have to check with their own carrier to find out if they are participating in the database.
Wind Mobile participating
Wind Mobile, which quit the association last April along with Mobilicity and Public Mobile, announced Monday that it is participating in the database. All three carriers were members of the CWTA when it committed to joining the database, but left several months later, complaining that the association represented the interests of larger, incumbent carriers and not theirs.
Consumers can find out whether their carrier is a member of the association by checking the CWTA's online buyer's guide.
Before today, individual carriers kept their own databases of lost and stolen phones and would not activate those phones on their own networks. However, the phones could be taken to another wireless service provider and activated.