Take That Thieves! Smartphone Industry To Implement “Kill Switch” To Fend Off Crime

April 22, 2014  |  

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Backed into a corner by lawmakers, the smartphone industry has finally agreed to implement the “kill switch,” a software that renders a device useless when stolen, by July 15, The Huffington Post reports.

Smartphone giants have rejected the kill switch for months. And why wouldn’t they? Consumers spend an additional $580 million each year to replace their stolen phones, according to PCWorld. But with more than three million smartphones stolen last year (a number that has doubled compared to 2012), lawmakers have pressured wireless carriers to implement kill switches to ward off theft.

“Introducing an automatic kill switch feature that allows victims to disable their stolen devices could virtually eliminate phone thefts because criminals would no longer have an incentive to steal them,” HuffPo adds.

Giving in, smartphone titans including Apple, Samsung, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint have agreed to sign a “voluntary agreement” to equip its new phones with the kill switch by next July.

Anti-theft technology gained national attention last year as George Gascón, San Francisco’s district attorney, and Eric T. Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, raised all hell about the unsettling increase in smartphone thefts in major cities.

“Because the industry dragged its feet, Congress is poised to act on legislation that will put consumers ahead of profits,” Schneiderman said in March, supporting Democratic Rep. José E. Serrano’s kill switch bill.

“It is time for smartphone carriers and manufacturers to get serious about protecting the safety and security of their customers,” Serrano stated.

While tech companies have finally surrendered to the kill switch concept, Gascón and Schneiderman released a joint statement revealing that they’re not impressed by the smartphone industry’s new solution to curb smartphone crime.

“[Gascón and Schneiderman] said the issue that remained with the group’s proposal was that the kill-switch would not necessarily be enabled by default on the phone, meaning criminals may still target smartphones in hopes that some consumers did not have the antitheft technology turned on,” The New York Times wrote.

But according to Steve Largent, president of the CTIA, the wireless industry group, it’s important that consumers are given the option to choose which anti-theft feature will be the best fit for them.

Gascón and Schneiderman disagree. They believe that the new theft-deterrent plan is “a step foward,” but it “falls short of what is needed to effectively end the epidemic of smartphone theft.”

With the kill switch, consumers can save $2.6 billion a year.

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