Google to test anti-theft AI feature for phones in Brazil

FILE PHOTO: The Google logo is seen in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 10, 2024. REUTERS/Steve Marcus/File Photo

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Alphabet's Google said on Tuesday that Brazil will be the first country to test an anti-theft feature for Android phones that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify when a phone has been stolen and lock the device's screen.

Three types of lock will be available in the initial test phase. In one of them, Google will use AI that it created to help detect signals of "common movement associated with theft" and block the screen.

The second feature allows a user to lock the device's screen remotely by entering the phone number and completing a security challenge from another device. The last mode involves automatically locking the screen if the device is left without internet access for long periods.

The features will be available to Brazilian users of Android phones version 10 or higher starting in July, according to the company. They will be released to users from other countries gradually this year, Google said.

Phone theft is a growing problem in Brazil. The number of stolen cellphones in Latin America's largest economy grew 16.6% in 2022 from the previous year to nearly 1 million, according to data from the 2023 Brazilian Public Security Yearbook.

The Brazilian government launched an app in December named Celular Seguro, which allows users to report a stolen phone and block access to it using another device belonging a trusted person.

As of last month, around 2 million people were registered with the app across the country, while 50,000 phones had been blocked, according to the Justice Ministry.

(Reporting by Patricia Vilas Boas in Sao Paulo; writing by Luana Maria Benedito; editing by Rod Nickel)

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