Second federal 'kill-switch' bill introduced targeting smartphone theft

The bill in the House of Representatives follows similar proposals in the Senate and the California State Assembly

A second federal bill that proposes "kill-switch" technology be made mandatory in smartphones as a means to reduce theft of the devices was introduced Monday.

The kill switch would allow consumers to remotely wipe and disable a stolen smartphone and is considered by proponents to be a key tool in combating the increasing number of smartphone robberies.

The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives as H.R. 4065 by José E. Serrano, a New York Democrat, as a companion to a Senate bill that was introduced Feb. 13. The two follow a similar law proposed by officials in California last month.

Thefts of smartphones make up 30 percent of robberies in the U.S., according to supporters of the proposed laws. Many are believed to be crimes of opportunity, committed when a smartphone user is on their phone and not paying attention to their surroundings. The thefts can be violent, with the victim being beaten or threatened with a knife or gun. In a handful of cases, victims have been killed for their phones.

Law enforcement officials believe that by having a mandatory kill switch incidents of theft will fall because most phones will quickly be made useless and therefore have no or little commercial value.

Major U.S. cellphone carriers have been resisting the legislation and last year turned down a proposal by Samsung to install such technology in many of its phones.

With pressure mounting at the state and federal level, that attitude appears to be shifting. Last week, executives of Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile USA and C Spire Wireless told a congressional hearing that they are willing to install such a system.

Under the proposed laws, only the consumer would have the ability to disable their phone.

Apple already has such a technology in devices running its iOS 7 operating system. The activation lock accomplishes all of the kill-switch features but requires the user to switch it on. The proposed law would make it the default setting and users' action would be required to switch it off.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags governmentsmartphoneslegislationlegalconsumer electronicst-mobileverizonCriminalC Spire Wireless

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?