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Legislation pending to require ‘kill switch’ on smartphones

With cell phone thefts surging across the country, U.S. senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced legislation to require a “kill switch” on smartphones to help protect consumers and deter thieves.

The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act would require all phones sold in the U.S. to include kill switch type technology free of charge that would allow the consumer to wipe their personal data off the phone, render the phone permanently inoperable to anyone but the owner and prevent it from being reactivated on a network by anyone but the owner.

The act is supported by a broad coalition of key stakeholders, such as the Major Cities Chiefs Association, members of the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative including founders New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, as well as Consumers Union.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, nearly one in three robberies involve cell phone theft, with criminals targeting smartphones for their high resale value and for the valuable personal and financial information they contain.

“Cell phone theft has become a big business for thieves looking to cash in on these devices and any valuable information they contain, costing consumers more than $30 billion every year and endangering countless theft victims,” Klobuchar said. “This legislation will help eliminate the incentives for criminals to target smartphones by empowering victims to take steps to keep their information private, protect their identity and finances, and render the phone inoperable to the thieves.”