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​Senate bill would require smartphone ‘kill switch’ in case of theft

Published time: January 24, 2014 22:57
Reuters / Maxim Shemetov

Reuters / Maxim Shemetov

Senator Amy Klobuchar will soon introduce a bill to combat smartphone theft - a rapidly growing crime as the technology proliferates - that would require phone makers to install a “kill switch” to prohibit a stolen device’s further use.

The legislation would demand that all phones sold in the United States have technology installed that would terminate the phone’s capabilities, Wi-Fi, games, and other features once it is reported stolen. Thus far, the wireless industry has opposed such features.

Klobuchar’s bill would mandate fines or other penalties - enforced by the Federal Communications Commission - for phone makers or wireless companies that refused to comply.

The Minnesota Democrat, a former prosecutor, told the Huffington Post that the bill came about when she became aware of how many smartphone thefts occur in the US. Around 1.6 million phones were stolen nationwide in 2013, according to Consumer Reports.

"There's been a major shift,” she told Huffington Post. “And that has to do with the value of these phones.”

The FCC has found that mobile device theft makes up about 40 percent of robberies in major US cities. The number of stolen devices is on the rise in places like New York City and Washington, DC.

The resale of stolen smartphones is a major underground market, as some devices net thousands of dollars overseas - where import taxes can drive up the prices of, for example, Apple products.

Klobuchar, chair of the Senate subcommittee on consumer rights issues, said she will hold a hearing on the subject in the coming months.

The senator is not the first politician to offer a solution for the growing trend. A California State senator plans to introduce legislation requiring anti-theft technology in smartphones sold in the state.

Various law enforcement officials, including New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, launched the “Secure our Smartphones” nationwide campaign last year which has pressured device manufacturers to adopt features that discourage theft.

Apple and Samsung responded by announcing new security options that they said would allow consumers to kill off their stolen phones’ capabilities. Yet the effectiveness of Apple’s features are unproven, and Samsung’s feature was rejected by wireless carriers that want to keep profits from the phone insurance they offer, according to San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, Huffington Post reported.

Comments (19)

 

mergon 27.01.2014 10:21

This is not an advert for the company but google spy equipment UK and have a look through their catalouge
this will give you a better idea of what is going on with mobile phones and computers !

As for the kill switch check out expensive car security systems where they can turn everything on or off via a phone signal from a satellite they can even talk to the thief and take a picture ,
makes you wonder dont it !

 

ev Pocket 27.01.2014 09:22

Had a heated argument with some dumb girl a few weeks ago about this. She thinks it will make her feel safer walking alone. I think she won't feel safe at all when during a citywide or national emergency, or during a large-scale protest her phone and every other one in the area suddenly dies. Or when hackers or terrorists hack the phone company's network and turn off 100,000 phones at the same time. If you make it possible to kill every phone with one command, then it is possible for someone to hijack the command.

 

Avis71 26.01.2014 08:37

Equipment Identity Registration EIR is a component that telecom operators like verizon have in their network. Once a phone is reported stolen the EIR blocks the phone from accessing the network. In most countries the telecom regulators made it a mandatory requirement for the operators to have this EIR. According the regulations most operators OWN this EIR but they prefer not to use it since it cost revenue. For business it's better the stolen phones are resold the original owner will buy a new phone anyway.
So already now consumers can complain to the regulator if the operators say they can't block the phone.

View all comments (19)
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