Kill switch could reduce thefts of smart phones
Stealing smart phones is the fastest growing crime in the country. For some large cities, it accounts for half of the robberies every day, and New York’s Attorney General’s office estimates that 113 iPhones and Androids are stolen every minute in the United States. Particularly in crowded urban areas, street criminals use a technique called “apple picking,” where they run by and grab the phone out of the victim’s hand while they are using it. Sadly, much more is at stake than just the loss of the phone. The personal information stored in many smart phones can be used for identity theft, and an alarming number of incidents involve injuries and violence — all for a piece of electronics that often is resold on the black market for just a couple of hundred dollars. That is why some lawmakers want to find a way to make the phones useless to thieves.
A bill proposed by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and several others would require manufacturers to add “kill switches” to new phones. When a phone is stolen, this technology would allow the owner to remotely stop the phone from operating and wipe the phone of information.
Some companies already have developed similar features, however, some critics worry that the kill switch could be used inadvertently or that phone systems could be hacked to wipe the phones of legitimate users. Clearly, there will be some debate about the best approach from a technical standpoint.
But the idea of quickly making stolen phones useless makes a lot of sense and should go a long way toward reducing thefts. That would help protect personal information and make us all a little less susceptible to senseless violence on the street.
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