Gadget Makers Can Find Thief, but Don't Ask

Gadget Makers Can Find Thief, but Don't Ask

By DAVID SEGAL September 7, 2009

For decades, when an item was lost or stolen, a consumer went through three stages of grief: anger, mourning and acceptance. You would be miffed, then sad and then you would move on, in large part because moving on was the only option.

Then came the Digital Age and with it, gadgets that manufacturers can keep tabs on - and even profit from - when they wind up in the hands of someone who has found or poached them. Which, in turn, has led to a fourth stage of gadget-related grief: rage.

Specifically, rage at the gadget makers, which often know exactly who has a missing or stolen device, because in many instances it has been registered to a new user.

But many tech companies will not disclose information about the new owners of missing devices unless a police officer calls with a search warrant. Even a request to simply shut down service - which would deter thieves by rendering their pilfered gadget useless - is typically refused.

The problem, which nobody had to deal with before smartphones and satellite radios, has reached new heights with the Kindle reader from Amazon, with its ability to download books wirelessly and store hundreds of titles on a single device.

On Web sites devoted to the e-book reader, including Blog Kindle and Amazon's own Kindle Community board, many customers have been in a snit over Amazon's policy on stolen Kindles.


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