Following a similar proposal in the state of California, four Democratic senators have begun pushing the Smartphone Theft Protection Act, which would require cellular devices makers to equip them with a kill switch of sorts to be permanently deactivated if stolen, and allow owners to remotely wipe all personal data.
The bill represents the latest attempt to crack down on theft. It’s likely to encounter some resistance from certain players in the industry, however. In particular, the CTIA has argued that such a system could be abused by hackers to disable entire groups of customers. Presumably, deactivation would be irreversible (otherwise it wouldn’t have the same effect deterring theft), thus making unintended consequences that more complex.
While CTIA agrees work needs to be done to prevent the theft of wireless devices, Jot Carpenter, the group’s vice president of government affairs, says they “clearly disagree on how to accomplish that goal.”
The cellular industry trade group, along with the FCC and four of the largest US carriers are pushing a national lost-and-stolen phone registry instead, which would be used as a blacklist to deny activation of stolen smartphones. That database went live late last year and the group believes legislation should build upon this initiative by criminalizing tampering with mobile device identifiers as a workaround to the blacklist.
Mobile phone thefts account for 30% to 40% of all robberies in major cities across the US, according to the FCC, and that figure is said to be as high as 50% in markets like San Francisco.
Manufacturers and software developers are doing their part independently. Aside from phone tracking services like Android Device Manager and Find My iPhone, Apple implemented an Activation Lock feature in iOS 7 that will make it impossible to reactivate a lost or stolen device without its associated Apple ID and password.
Image via iMore