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Smartphone 'kill switch' group misses the mark

You may have been one of the 3.1 million smartphone owners who had their phone stolen last year according to Consumer Reports. Thefts of smartphones are increasing as 40 percent of all robberies include smartphones despite the warnings in the news.

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

The major carriers and Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft agreed on Tuesday to all smartphones manufactured for sale in the United States after July 2015 must have the technology to shut down the phone according to the program from CTIA-The Wireless Association.

HTC, Nokia and Motorola have also signed on to the agreement with the four main carriers of AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular working in tandem on this change to protect consumers. BlackBerry is not on the list and has not made an announcement at this time,

The feature provided by July 2015 of the agreement is that the smartphone owner can erase personal information, emails, photos and a password will be required to access the information. Also, at no extra cost to the smartphone owner, the phone will be deactivated and only the owner can allow its reactivation.

Does this provide the good news to the consumer? The issue still remains that the smartphone owner must install the security measures. This is still an optional step for the smartphone owner.

California State Sen. Mark Leno (D) has introduced legislation that would require every phone sold in the state to have a mandatory kill switch. Legislation sits in Congress for this legislation also. In a bi-coastal effort San Francisco Attorney George Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have put out a plea that the ‘kill switch’ be mandatory and not an option of security measures on the part of the owner.

One fear that Gascon states is that the reason carriers are reticent to provide mandatory measures is due to the the fear of losing insurance fees attached monthly to their program menu. Consumer Reports show that smartphone owners do not take the extra step to protecting their device which includes one-third of smartphone owners will not use options that require certain PIN codes for access and other app features for protection. Most do not install the app that tracks a mobile device.

Back to the debate of mandatory versus the pledge to provide optional security measures leads Leno back to the status quo of ‘optional’ program menu. ‘While I am encouraged they are moving off of that position so quickly, today's 'opt-in' proposal misses the mark if the ultimate goal is to combat street crime and violent thefts involving smartphones and tablets,’ states Leno after the announcement on Tuesday

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