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Lawmakers are cautiously optimistic about iOS 7's 'Activation Lock' feature


In response to an increase in iPhone thefts nationwide, and particularly in large US cities, a number of lawmakers have proposed that smartphone manufacturers include a "kill switch" on mobile phones so that stolen devices can be de-activated from afar.

On Monday, Apple unveiled a new iOS 7 feature dubbed "Activation Lock" which may help in that regard. As Apple explained during its keynote yesterday, devices with Activation Lock enabled will preclude a thief from turning off the "Find my iPhone" feature without first entering in the device owner's Apple ID and password. Adding an extra layer of deterrence, even if a thief wipes a device clean, he/she will not be able to reactivate the device without the original owner's credentials.

While Apple is confident that the feature will help lower the incidence of iPhone thefts, lawmakers who have been pushing for a kill switch appear to be cautiously optimistic.

According to SeattlePi, the top prosecutors in San Francisco and New York are withholding judgement on this particular iOS 7 feature until they get a chance to see it used in action.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have been asking the leading wireless device makers to create a "kill switch" that would render stolen phones useless. The prosecutors said they aren't judging Apple's new activation lock feature until they can fully determine its effectiveness. ...

"We are appreciative of the gesture made by Apple to address smartphone theft. We reserve judgment on the activation lock feature until we can understand its actual functionality," the prosecutors said in a joint written statement.

Highlighting the prevalence of iPhone thefts in particular, and smartphone thefts in general, SeattlePi cites an FCC report which relays that one in three robberies nationwide involve a stolen mobile phone. Even more jarring, nearly 50 percent of robberies in San Francisco in 2012 involved stolen mobile devices, this according to San Francisco DA Gascon.

With iOS 7 not dropping until later this fall, we'll have to wait and see if Activation Lock actually helps curb iPhone thefts.

In the meantime, both Gascon and Schneiderman this Thursday will be meeting with representatives from Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung to discuss the implementation of kill switches capable of rendering stolen devices unusable.

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