NYC and San Francisco Govt. call for smartphone "kill switch"

The problem of stolen iPhones in big cities like New York has become so widespread that some police departments have devoted special task forces solely devoted to electronic device crime. Now, in response to the growing incidents of electronics theft, officials from San Francisco and New York City have joined forces to launch an effort to curb smartphone crime in the U.S.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón have announced the formation of the Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S) Initiative, a national effort involving police chiefs, district attorneys, and consumer advocates to call for "kill switches" on stolen smartphones. In general terms, a kill switch would essentially render a smartphone unusable once the device is lost or stolen and the owner sends out the alert — a dynamic that would, in theory, reduce the incentive for criminals to steal phones from users in large urban areas.

Commenting on the reasoning behind the effort, Gascón said, "Over half of the U.S. population owns a smartphone creating an environment ripe for violent street crimes. The cell phone industry cannot ignore that smartphone theft is a crime that can be fixed with a technological solution."

And while this new effort may eventually help lower smartphone-related, some smartphone makers have been paying attention to the statistics and calls for action. Just this week Apple announced a new feature in iOS 7 that will function as the kind of kill switch some have been calling for.

Now, when you lose your iPhone or have it stolen, if someone tries to erase the device, or turn off Find My iPhone, they will be required to enter your Apple ID. Without that ID, the phone will be unusable. Of course, criminals adapt quickly, so this could simply mean that iPhone thefts will now be accompanied by blistering interrogations asking for your Apple ID. Nevertheless, as a purely technological fix, Apple's solution appears to be on the right track.

Via AP

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