FCC Technological Advisory Council (TAC) Subcommittee Report
By Doug Muldoon
FBINAA Past President
FBI NA#153

Cell phone theft has been an issue for several years. These personal devices hold an immense amount of private information which, in the wrong hands, can lead to a spiral of other crime if not stopped immediately. The Major City Chiefs Association adopted a Resolution on February 10th, 2012 encouraging the FCC to help.

The Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the commission is the United States' primary authority for communications law, regulation and technological innovation. Facing economic opportunities and challenges associated with rapidly evolving advances in global communications, the agency capitalizes on its competencies in:

  • Promoting competition, innovation and investment in broadband services and facilities
  • Supporting the nation's economy by ensuring an appropriate competitive framework for the unfolding of the communications revolution
  • Encouraging the highest and best use of spectrum, both domestically and internationally
  • Revising media regulations so that new technologies flourish alongside diversity and localism
  • Providing leadership in strengthening the defense of the nation's communications infrastructure

The Technological Advisory Council

The FCC’s Technological Advisory Council (TAC) provides technical advice to the FCC. The TAC is organized under the authority of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.  The current TAC, which is the FCC’s 5th Technological Advisory Council, was formed on October 21, 2010.  The TAC is comprised of a diverse array of leading experts that help the FCC identify important areas of innovation. They develop informed technology policies supporting America’s competitiveness and job creation in the global economy.

The Mobile Device Theft Prevention (MDTP) Working Group was established by the TAC. This was at the request of the FCC chairman to explore the widespread problem of mobile device thefts and to develop recommendations for the FCC by the end of 2014 to mitigate mobile device theft.

The MDTP Working Group evaluated the device theft problem, existing solutions addressing device theft and the gaps between the problem and existing solutions with a focus on issues such as cybersecurity, privacy and outreach needs. They brought together stakeholders with widely different areas of focus and expertise to collaborate on defining a national mobile theft deterrent strategy and associated implementation plan to protect consumers.

The following is a list of the members to the Mobile Device Theft Prevention which highlights the interest to stop and combat cell phone theft.

Competitive Carriers Association (CCA)
ICE/Homeland Security Investigations
New York City Police Department
Motorola Mobility
Department of Justice (DOJ)
National Institute of Justice
T-Mobile USA
US Secret Service
GSM Association
Illinois Institute of Technology
Verizon Wireless
City and County of San Francisco

This working group interestingly only had the following agencies representing law enforcement interest: NYPD, SFDA, Secret Service, FBI, and DOJ NIJ. The ecoATM Gazelle representatives that have been working continuously on this development are Vice President/Chief Legal Officer David Mersten and Sr. Director of Law Enforcement Relations Max Santiago (retired Deputy Commissioner of California Highway Patrol) with numerous years of law enforcement experience.

Direction from the Chair of FCC

WASHINGTON, December 9th, 2015 – The following statement can be attributed to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler following the release of a Report on Mobile Device Theft Prevention, prepared by the FCC Technological Advisory Council’s Mobile Device Theft Prevention Working Group:

“Smart phone theft is a global problem that causes real harm in a variety of ways. It results in the loss of valuable devices, it often entails physical harm to the victim of the theft, and it can lead to disclosure of vital and confidential personal information stored on the stolen devices. Literally around the world, governments, private entities, and individuals have been raising the alarm about smart phone theft, but until now there has been very little in the way of solutions. 

In a report issued earlier today, however, the FCC Technological Advisory Council’s [MDTP] working group has risen to the challenge. In April 2015, I asked the TAC to study three specific approaches to combatting smart phone theft, and the MDTP working group report delivers.

First, the MDTP report updates its recommended slate of on- device theft prevention features such as giving consumer’s the default ability to remotely lock stolen devices and erase any data they hold. Second, it details efforts to review and improve the technical security design of each device’s unique numerical identifier, in an effort to prevent thieves from laundering devices by giving them new numbers. Third – and perhaps most significantly – it describes a clear pathway to the implementation of a single data portal to enable real-time assessment of whether any particular device is stolen. 

In addition, industry has committed to continuing its partnership with the FCC in this important area: CTIA has committed to a consumer outreach effort to better understand consumer acceptance of these anti-theft capabilities and to track mobile device theft rates. The Mobile Device Theft Prevention Working Group has, moreover, recommended their continuation of these work efforts for next year. I would note that this group is a unique blend of key industry stakeholders working with law enforcement and government representatives for the interests of the consumer. 

While much work remains, the working group’s report establishes the critical components of a holistic effort to eliminate smart phone theft. The report is the result of considerable effort on the part of the Technological Advisory Council and, in particular, its MDTP working group. I am particularly grateful to the TAC chairman, Dennis Roberson, and the MDTP working group’s co- chairs, Brian Daly and Rob Kubik, for their sustained commitment to this effort, and also to CTIA-The Wireless Association for its leading role in conceiving of an effective data portal.”

Ending Key Factors and Initiatives

The three most important initiatives from the meetings can be found under “5.2 Areas for Future Consideration”:

Recommendation 2.1: The FCC TAC recommends the FCC TAC/MDTP Working Group Consider study on discussion topics in Section 3.2 regarding centralized data gathering, enhanced consumer outreach and education, reporting for law enforcement, and increased consumer adoption of anti-theft features.

Recommendation 2.2: The FCC TAC recommends the FCC TAC/MDTP Working Group Consider study on how to expand blacklisting to all US carriers, working with the GSM Association and CTIA.

Recommendation 2.3: The FCC TAC recommends the FCC TAC/MDTP Working Group should examine if anti-theft solution providers may be able to provide consumers a feature to determine enrollment status in their solution in such a way that the consumer does not have to be in physical possession of the device.

In 2016, the committee continued their work to fight cell phone theft on several fronts. There were three key recommendations:

•Database and Portal for:

– Law Enforcement

– Consumers

– Resellers of 2nd Hand Devices

•On-Device Theft Prevention Features

•Considerations for Hardening IMEI and Additional Device Identifiers

Additionally, one significant item is now available for both consumers, cellular companies and law enforcement. www.stolenphonechecker.org is a website to check if a device is reported stolen, saving a large amount of work for our law enforcement services.

Hardening IMEI and Additional Device Identifiers

“Across the US, law enforcement officers may not be aware of the significance or existence of the device identifier (IMEI, MEID, etc.). Procedures to obtain the IMEI or ESN on devices vary among manufacturers and this complicates law enforcement abilities to acquire that information. Also, if the device will not power-on, this further complicates abilities. Across the US, law enforcement officers are not fully aware of how to access information that is in the GSMA IMEI Database.” – Taken from the Report of TAC Subcommittee on Mobile Device Theft Prevention (MDTP) Analysis and Recommendations, 4 Dec 2015.

The reality is cell phone theft is a major issue and a concern for all parties previously listed. The FCC, law enforcement and ecoATM takes this issues seriously and works together to combat cell phone theft and prosecute those that commit these crimes.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), unanimously passed a resolution in December 2017 regarding cell phone theft as outlined below:

Reducing Mobile Device Theft

Submitted by: Crime Prevention Committee and Police Investigation Operations Committee


The IACP reaffirms its position that, due to the vital need for access to all available evidence in criminal investigations, all mass-market device manufacturers should be required to maintain the capability to unlock their devices and make the contents available to law enforcement in response to appropriate legal demands, and that maintaining such a capability is consistent with long-standing tradeoffs on device security and privacy.

The IACP calls upon all law enforcement agencies to strongly support developing public awareness materials educating and encouraging community members to activate on-device security features on their mobile devices in an effort to prevent and reduce crime. Furthermore, the IACP encourages all law enforcement agencies to use the global GSMA Device Check database which to identify and investigate lost or stolen mobile devices. (4)


For more information regarding our services and cell phone theft, please contact the following:
Max Santiago, Sr. Director of Law Enforcement Relations, ecoATM max.santiago@ecoATM.com
Michael McCann, Director of Law Enforcement Relations, ecoATM michael.mccann@ecoatm.com
Doug Muldoon, Director of Law Enforcement Relations, ecoATM doug.muldoon@ecoatm.com




Report of Technological Advisory Council (TAC) Subcommittee on Mobile Device Theft Prevention (MDTP), December 4, 2014

Report of Technological Advisory Council (TAC) Subcommittee on Mobile Device Theft Prevention (MDTP) Analysis and Recommendations for 2015 December 4, 2015

Major City Chiefs Association Resolution February 10, 2012

International Association of Chiefs of Police December 2017