Phone Kill Switch: Makers, Carriers Agree to Safety Measure in 2015

Image: Phone Kill Switch: Makers, Carriers Agree to Safety Measure in 2015 New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman speaks at a press conference introducing new legislation that would require smartphone manufacturers to create a 'kill switch' for people to deactivate their phones if they are stolen, on March 3, 2014 in New York City.

Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 06:10 PM

By Ken Mandel

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Apple, Samsung, Google, Microsoft, and major wireless carriers have pledged to offer phone "kill switch" technology in 2015 that would let users remotely purge data and disable their smartphones when lost or stolen.

The smartphone markers volunteered to include the technology on devices made after July 2015 that would also prevent reactivation without the user's permission and restore data and operability if the phone is recovered.

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The move is part of an initiative by the CTIA-The Wireless Association, a Washington-based trade group, to prevent phone theft. They announced the program in a statement Tuesday.

The kill switch feature should help deter theft and allow customers to protect personal information if their phones are lost or stolen.

"We appreciate the commitment made by these companies to protect wireless users in the event their smartphones are lost or stolen," said President and CEO of CTIA Steve Largent, according to CNN. "This flexibility provides consumers with access to the best features and apps that fit their unique needs while protecting their smartphones and the valuable information they contain."

Other phone manufactures that are onboard include HTC, Motorola, and Nokia, as well as carriers AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular.

Getting wireless carriers to agree represents a philosophical shift, as they had previously claimed such a feature could be exploited by hackers and would be difficult to reverse once activated.

A 2013 Federal Communications Commission study found that 30 percent to 40 percent of all thefts nationwide involved cell phones, at a cost of more than $30 billion in 2012 alone.

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