Legal Technology

Smartphone makers to offer 'kill switch' next year; some lawmakers say that isn't enough

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Amidst efforts by lawmaker to require a “kill switch” allowing owners to remotely delete data and deactivate smartphones after a theft, major makers are providing an voluntary alternative.

All smartphones they manufacture after July 2015 will offer consumers the option of turning on a kill switch, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. An epidemic of thefts of smartphones, which are often taken out of owners’ hands as they use them in public, has prompted calls for the kill switch to prevent stolen electronic devices from being utilized by others.

“The industry is making a move so they’re not forced to do so by the government,” technology analyst Jeff Kagan told the newspaper. “It’s better for them to solve the problem than wait for the government to come in with a nuclear bomb.”

However, some lawmakers say the voluntary kill switch solution isn’t sufficient, the newspaper reports.

“For the solution to have an impact on the street where the crimes occur, it must be ubiquitous,” said Calif. Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who plans to move forward with his bill requiring kill switches. “It should come enabled when you purchase your phone and the retailer activates it. That is fundamental to communicating to potential perpetrators that their stealing these phones will be a worthless venture.”

Under Leno’s bill, customers could opt out and decide to disable the kill switch, but would have phones equipped with kill switches if they did nothing, the Chronicle explains. The solution proposed by manufacturers would require owners to opt in to equip their smartphones with kill switches; if they did nothing, their phones would not have the protection.

Kill switch applications let smartphone owners remotely erase data and render the device inoperable

See also: “See the video: Woman chases youth who grabs iPhone; such thefts are ‘epidemic,’ sometimes lethal” “Benefited by $30B in annual cellphone sales, industry opposes anti-theft measures, columnist says” “Viral video of laptop being stolen from coffee shop leads to arrest of suspect”

SFGate (San Francisco Chronicle) “Suspected S.F. cafe thief in second video?”

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