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US carriers don't want to give smartphone users an anti-theft kill switch


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Earlier this year, lawmakers in San Francisco and New York joined forces in an initiative called "Secure our Smartphones" that would encourage manufacturers to include a so-called "kill switch" in future phones to address the growing problem of handset theft. According to George Gascon, San Francisco's district attorney, carriers are determined to kill the kill switch initiative. The New York Times reports that Gascon was in talks with Samsung to pre-load software that would allow customers to deactivate stolen handsets, similar to iOS 7's Activation Lock. However, inclusion of the software would require approval from US carriers, and the likes of AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint weren't having it.

According to Gascon, it appeared that the companies in question rejected the idea because it could cut into the revenue they make from cellphone insurance. In response, the CTIA, which represents the carriers, says it already has a solution in the stolen phone database that went live last year. However, some say that solution falls short, as it doesn't address those devices that end up overseas, out of the reach of the database. A Samsung spokeswoman had this to say in a statement to The New York Times:

"We are working with the leaders of the Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.) Initiative to incorporate the perspective of law enforcement agencies. We will continue to work with them and our wireless carrier partners towards our common goal of stopping smartphone theft."

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