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article imageMajor cellphone makers, carriers to install 'kill switch' by 2015

By Nathan Salant     Apr 17, 2014 in Internet
Most of the world's major mobile phone makers and carriers have agreed to install a "kill switch" on devices made after July of next year, an industry group announced Tuesday.
The voluntary program, being implemented by the industry's largest trade group, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, could head off proposed legislation to require such a switch to discourage theft.
The switch would enable users to render their smartphones useless and eviscerate personal data in the event the devices are lost or stolen, according to Cable News Network (CNN).
Smartphone makers Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung have agreed to the pledge, as has major mobile phone carriers AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular, CNN said.
"We appreciate the commitment made by these companies to protect wireless users in the event their smartphones are lost or stolen," Steve Largent [Unlink], the group's president and CEO, told 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," he said.
Largent is a member of the professional football Hall of Fame and represented Oklahoma in Congress from 1994-2002.
Backers of the requirement, which include many law enforcement groups, expect the "kill" feature to deter rising incidents of cellphone theft and related crimes.
The feature would enable phone owners to remotely erase contacts, photos, e-mail and lock the phone so it cannot be used without a password, in case their device is stolen or lost.
HTC, Motorola, Nokia also have agreed to the change, CNN said.
The CTIA agreement calls for the kill switch to be offered at no cost to consumers.
Data would be recoverable if the owner recovers the phone, CNN said.
Wireless carriers had previously resisted installing the switch on mobile phones, claiming hackers would eventually be able to exploit the technology, CNN said.
But industry critics maintained the carriers feared revenue losses from being required to replace and activate the phones.
The new agreement also could head off mounting pressure from state legislators demanding that the industry take action or face mandatory requirements.
Minnesota's legislature, for example, could pass a mandatory kill-switch law next week, CNN said.
State Sen. Bruce Starr of Oregon, president of the National Conference of State Legislatures, applauded the agreement.
"This voluntary effort serves as another positive illustration of the wireless industry adapting to address consumer needs through self-regulation," Starr said.
But many industry critics were not satisfied with the voluntary approach, CNN said.
California state Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco called the agreement "inadequate" because it still required consumers to activate the anti-theft features.
"Today's 'opt-in' proposal misses the mark if the ultimate boal is to combat street crime and violent thefts involving smartphones and tablets," Leno said.
Smartphones are shown for sale in a store in Hong Kong. Photo: Orangcertmeoasi/Wikimedia Commons
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