With several states spearheading the legislative charge, including our own Minnesota Senator, Amy Klobuchar, the leading trade group for cellphone manufacturers has announced that as of July 2015, smartphones — including Apple, HTC, Google, Sprint and T-Mobile — will come equipped with a “kill switch.”
This new technology acts as a theft deterrent, enabling users to remotely deactivate their phone, blocking access to their personal information, and making the device impossible for thieves to use.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, approximately one-third of robberies in the U.S. involve cellphone theft.
“Cell phone theft has become a big business for thieves looking to cash in on these devices and any valuable information they contain, costing consumers more than $30 billion every year and endangering countless theft victims,” said Senator Klobuchar, who visited the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis earlier this year to talk about student safety following an increase in cellphone and laptop theft last autumn.
In February of this year, senator Klobuchar, introduced a bill, called the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act. If passed, this bill would require cellphones (particularly smartphones) to come with the kill switch technology. As of now, the industry is voluntarily adding the feature to the devices. It is still being debated whether or not this will be sufficient to ensure compliance and decrease theft, or if an actual bill mandating kill switches will still be necessary.
“This legislation will help eliminate the incentives for criminals to target smartphones by empowering victims to take steps to keep their information private, protect their identity and finances, and render the phone inoperable to the thieves,” Klobuchar said when she first proposed the bill.
The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, better known as CTIA-The Wireless Association, a nonprofit that represents the wireless communications industry was initially skeptical of the technology, fearing that it could fall into the wrong hands and be used against its owner, preventing them from calling 911 for help against an intruder, for example.
However, the current rendition of the technology would allow the authorized user to enter a secret code to reactivate their phone and restore its data.
Until the new devices hit the market, take some tips from the CTIA on how to keep your cellphone from being stolen, and what to do if it is.