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Apple, Google Pressed by N.Y. Over Handheld Device Thefts

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
Eric Schneiderman, attorney general of State of New York, said he would be “especially concerned” if the companies, which may have failed to live up to representations to consumers about safety and security, have benefited from increased sales of replacement devices. Photographer: J. Countess/Getty Images

May 13 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. and Google Inc. are among technology companies being asked by the New York attorney general to take steps to deter thefts of iPhones and other handheld devices and eliminate a black market for the products.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wrote to Apple, Google, Microsoft Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. seeking information about what the companies are doing to combat thefts of their devices in the state, according to copies of the May 10 letters.

“I seek to understand why companies that can develop sophisticated handheld electronics, such as the products manufactured by Apple, cannot also create technology to render stolen devices inoperable and thereby eliminate the expanding black market on which they are sold,” Schneiderman said in the letter to Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook.

New York City Police said last year that Apple products were stolen in a total of 11,447 incidents last year from Jan. 1 to Sept. 23, an increase of 40 percent over the same period in 2011. That compares with a 4 percent rise in the same period for the total number of index crimes -- seven major crimes including murder, rape and robbery.

Apple last month reported an 18 percent decline in earnings and acknowledged that growth will continue to slow amid shrinking profit margins and accelerating competition from Samsung.

Apple Sales

Apple sold 37.4 million units of the iPhone, compared with 35.1 million a year earlier, when iPhone revenue surged 85 percent. Apple sold 19.5 million iPads, up from 11.8 million. It also sold 4 million Mac computers.

Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano said in an e-mailed statement that the company encourages smartphone users to lock their devices with a personal identification number or pattern and set their device to automatically lock when not in use.

Colleen Patterson, a spokeswoman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, Bill Cox, a spokesman for Microsoft, and James Chung, a spokesman for Samsung, didn’t respond to e-mails seeking comment about New York’s letter.

In his letter to the companies, Schneiderman cited the April 2012 murder of a 26-year-old chef at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan who was killed for his iPhone on his way home, and a February incident this year in which three people were stabbed on a subway platform in the Queens section of New York in a fight over an iPhone.

Schneiderman said he would be “especially concerned” if the companies, which may have failed to live up to representations to consumers about safety and security, have benefited from increased sales of replacement devices.

“Foreign trafficking of stolen devices has proliferated, and an abundance of domestic black market resellers, including right here in New York, means as a practical matter that phones do not, contrary to your website’s assertion, become unusable,” Schneiderman said in the letter to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.

To contact the reporter on this story: David McLaughlin in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Pickering at

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