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Relentless smartphone owners pursue thieves

The growing theft of smartphones and the kill switch bill defeat in the California legislature has a more serious issue finds The New York Times Sunday report. The continual debate on smartphone theft is leading towards vigilante justice.

NYPD Chief Bratton And State Attorney Gen. Schneiderman Introduce Introduce Kill Switch Legislation For Stolen Cell Phones
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Most smartphone owners are finding the app that finds ones smartphone when lost. In the case of a young Los Angeles woman, she awoke one morning after a Saturday night out to discover her iPhone missing. She hit her “find my phone” locater and set off to the address listed. She did find her phone at the location. In her situation, no violence occurred and she left with both her phone and her roommate’s phone after a short time of negotiation with the alleged thief.

The problem is that more people are using the find my phone app and seeking out alone to retrieve their phone. Some are not so fortunate to leave with their phone without violence according to San Francisco district attorney and former police chief, George Gascón. People are taking the law into their own hands and some are “getting hurt” according to Gascón.

Since 2011 according to the Consumer Reports, cell phone thefts have arisen 26 percent in Los Angeles, 23 percent of thefts involved cell phones in San Francisco last year and Apple products were 18 percent of the total grand larceny thefts in New York City in 2013. All of cell phone thefts totaled 3.1 million reported last year.

Growing statistics are making it harder for cell phone owners to guard their highly sought after possession of communication need and social mobile access. The problem has brought “kill switch” proposed bills to state legislatures. Last week in the California state legislature the bill died. It was killed off by certain interests. The vote resulted in 11 Republicans and seven Democrats blocking passage of the bill, even though law enforcement strongly backed it. The final vote in the State Senate was 19-17 excluding the abstentions.

Another issue of ethics and lobbying has arisen since the California legislature in both houses received $2 million in contributions during the 2012 campaign time period. Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) wants to try and present the kill switch bill again but time and lobby money is an upward battle. A mandatory kill switch on cell phones has been aggressively fought against by the telecom industry.

The reason that carriers are reluctant to provide the mandatory feature is the fear of losing the insurance fees attached to their monthly program menu. Consumer Reports show that many smartphone owners do not take the extra step to protecting their device which is made available on smartphones. The use of PIN codes for access and apps for tracking do not get installed by owners. It is a $2.5 billion annual cost for phone replacement and insurance premiums.

At this time while government legislatures grapple with the kill switch bills, all iPhones with iOS 7 have the Apple activation lock, so no one will activate or erase your information without your Apple ID and password. Samsung has partnered with Lack and embeds its device with recovery software on all of its smartphone for a fee after the first year.

Starting July 2015, smartphones sold in the U.S. will have a feature to remotely delete all data by the authorized owner of the smartphone according to CITA, the association that represents the wireless industry. That is over a year away.

The construction worker in San Diego, who chased the thief onto the beach where the fist fight was broken up by police and the New Jersey man who attacked an innocent man, is presenting growing concern as to where this will end. Will it be resolved in the legislature, the courts or on a beach in a fight? View the video atop and listen to district attorney Gascón, who sees it as a moral obligation of the telecom industry, and asks it to work with the legislatures and legal officials.

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