SYRACUSE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — An upstate congressman has joined New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman a call to require require smartphone makers to install “kill switches” on phones to render them useless if stolen.
U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.) joined Schneiderman in Syracuse Friday, and said he is co-sponsoring legislation in the House designed to curb smartphone thefts.
Kill switches allow a person to remotely delete their phone’s data if the device is stolen.
Maffei said the initiative would deter phone thefts by making them worthless on the black market.
Schneiderman commended Maffei for supporting what he called “groundbreaking” legislation. The Democratic attorney general has been pushing smartphone makers to do more to prevent thefts.
U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) proposed the legislation, which Schneiderman said would “essentially mandate what we’re seeing the manufacturers to do voluntarily.”
“We call them smartphones because we could do so many things with it, yet we haven’t been smart enough to bring it to that point where they can’t be used by someone that steals them,” Serrano said in March.
One in three thefts in the United States involved a mobile device in 2012 and Serrano said these crimes are often accompanied by violence.
“It is time for smartphone carriers and manufacturers to get serious about protecting the safety and security of their customers,” Serrano said in March. “This legislation will ensure that consumers are empowered to protect themselves by rendering their smartphones useless in the hands of criminals. This is the most effective way to deter smartphone theft.”
When manufacturers rolled out smartphones with kill switches, the five major carriers — AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular — would not support them, law enforcement said. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon suspected that it could be because it would cut into big profits that phone companies make by selling anti-theft insurance and replacement phones.
“We’re talking about a $60-billion a year industry and about a half of that seems to be attached to the replacement of phones that are being stolen. So, we’re talking about a lot of money here,” Gascon said last November.
The cellphone industry contends a kill switch is not the answer and is working on alternatives.
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