US Senate Bill Could Make Smartphone Kill Switch Mandatory

Considering how much sensitive data we store on our phones, the idea of a kill switch that could be triggered if the device gets stolen or misplaced is not bad at all.

Having your smartphone stolen could mean the beginning of a downward spiral, especially if you don’t take security measures to protect your apps and accounts. There are plenty of solutions for privacy and security freaks, but a kill switch that comes by default on each device could make things a lot easier. Several US senators proposed a law that would make the smartphone kill switch a mandatory feature. Since one third of the stolen goods in the US are smartphones, it’s quite easy to guess how the kill switch could give people peace of mind.

Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar, who founded the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act along with Barbara Mikulski, Richard Blumenthal and Mazie Hirono, claims that “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. 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.”

CTIA vice president Jon Carpenter emphasized that “While Senator Klobuchar and CTIA are of like mind when it comes to wanting to prevent the theft of wireless devices, we clearly disagree on how to accomplish that goal. Rather than impose technology mandates, a better approach would be to enact Senator Schumer’s legislation to criminalize tampering with mobile device identifiers. This would build on the industry’s efforts to create the stolen device databases, give law enforcement another tool to combat criminal behavior, and leave carriers, manufacturers, and software developers free to create new, innovative loss and theft prevention tools for consumers who want them.”

The idea of having a smartphone kill switch isn’t exactly new. Samsung implemented it in some of its products last year, but US carriers weren’t that fond of it, so the feature didn’t really make it on this market. Apple, on the other hand, offers Activation Lock in iOS 7, which is very similar in concept to a kill switch.

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