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Wireless carriers aren’t keen on remote ‘kill switch’

A sudden rise in smartphone and portable electronics theft has forced police authorities, smartphone manufacturers, wireless carriers, and politicians to come together and try to find a way to better protect consumers.

Earlier in the year, police authorities, prosecutors and lawmakers part of the “Secure Our Smartphones Initiative” coalition called for the use of a mobile phone ‘kill switch’, which would make it easier to remotely disable compromised devices.

In the United States, mobile phone and personal electronics theft continue to plague police authorities – whether armed robbery, snatch and grab theft, or breaking into cars for devices, there has been a drastic rise in the theft of phones.

More than 1.6 million Americans had their mobile devices robbed and stolen from them, according to Secure Our Smartphones Initiative – and police departments across the country and trying to keep up with the uptick in theft.

“This is a growing epidemic affecting all corners of our nation and accounting for a majority of the robberies in our cities,” noted the group in a press statement.

Samsung has designed a remote setting that would allow phone owners to brick a device if lost or stolen – but US carriers might not offer the phones for sale if they ship with a kill switch.  Specifically, carriers aren’t optimistic about the likelihood of having to deal with customers regarding activating and deactivating phones, which is largely their responsibility after a device has been purchased.

Instead, mobile carriers have created a national-phone tracking database and researching alternative solutions to remotely bricking a lost or stolen device.  Realistically, wireless providers just want to offer the newest generation devices and try to keep cost a minimum, which won’t happen if retail stores need to deal with an added burden of dealing with kill switches.

Something also to keep in mind, carriers profit from stolen, lost, and broken devices – as they are able to collect activation charges on new phones and offer insurance premiums for higher-end devices.  Alternative solutions to kill switches are now being investigated by Samsung and other hardware manufacturers, trying to walk a fine-line between government bureaucracy, customer satisfaction, and legal issues.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle
Image: ALAMY

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