Carriers slammed for rejecting smartphone 'kill switch'

Law enforcement officials trying to rein in violent smartphone theft have criticized cellular operators who they say rejected a solution that would help address the problem.

“It is highly disturbing that these corporations rejected a proposal that would have helped keep millions of consumers safe,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a joint statement Wednesday.

The officials have been pushing for a “kill switch” that could render smartphones inoperable after they’re stolen, reducing the incentive for crime. But news reports this week suggested carriers have rejected the idea.

[Read: Still no smartphone kill switch? Blame the carriers]

“If they did so to protect their own profit margins, as several recent reports suggest, it is even more egregious,” the pair said in their statement.

“Companies that choose to prioritize profits over safety put consumers everywhere at risk. Since smartphone thefts so often result in violence, we call on manufacturers and carriers alike to make the opt-out kill switch an industry-wide standard.”

The carriers, including AT&T, Verizon, United States Cellular and Sprint, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Robbery catnip

Robberies involving smartphones have been increasing across the U.S. and, in many major cities, they now make up the majority of serious street crime. In many cases, victims are physically attacked or threatened with knives or guns for their phones.

The two officials have had some success with Apple and Samsung. Apple designed new security features into the latest version of its iOS operating system, and Samsung is shipping new handsets with a security software package installed.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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