Tech experts: Smart phones fuel deadly conflicts

Metals in mobile devices originate from war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo

Published On: Mar 13 2013 06:18:16 PM EDT   Updated On: Mar 13 2013 11:00:00 PM EDT
MIAMI -

The ubiquitous smart phone is taking on a new nickname: blood phone.

The name is related to the origin of the materials used in the devices. It turns out, the metals that comprise many of our favorite electronic devices come from war-torn areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

In today's world, it's not just diamonds, but also precious metals such as tungsten, titanium, and tin earning a reputation as "conflict minerals." They help fuel one of the world's deadliest conflicts. Experts say thousands of people have died over these special metals in your phone.

Gripd.com's Craig Agranoff, an iPhone application developer and tech expert, told Local 10 it's hard to believe that many of our cell phones are directly connected to the horrific violence in eastern Congo.

"We know about blood diamonds, but I did not know the phone in my pocket could be made with the same type monstrosities against human nature that is taking place," said Agranoff. "I don’t want to support conflict, but I did not know tungsten was in here."

Raise Hope, a watchdog organization, has compiled a list of the best and worst companies on their efforts towards using conflict-free metals.

HTC is at the bottom of the list. Sony, Samsung, LG and Nokia follow closely behind. Motorola is next and Apple is at the top.

"I think it’s horrible. I think people should know about it," said consumer Gilat Wayam of Hollywood.

Not a single consumer Local 10 spoke with knew about the impact of their alleged blood phones.

"I had no idea, it’s pretty interesting," said Benji Sweet of Fort Lauderdale.

According to Agranoff, there’s been little effort to educate the public about the conflict materials.

There are no government regulations in place and no system of accountability. Instead, it’s up to the consumer to make responsible purchasing decisions.

"We need to put pressure on the companies themselves to make sure they don’t come from conflict regions," said Agranoff. "Write letters to companies, write letters to your representatives. In the future, say, 'I’m not going to support your devices.'"

According to a report released last week, metals from the Congo are getting less bloody, suggesting recent efforts made by consumers and watchdog groups seem to be working.