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Kill-switch coming to smartphones
Posted: 16-Apr-2014 [Source: CTIA]

[The CTIA announced an industry initiative to mandate "kill switch" and to "impose tough penalties against those caught stealing devices or modifying them illegally".]

Washington -- CTIA and participating wireless companies today announced the “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment,” which is the most recent effort by the industry to deter smartphone thefts in the U.S. The safety and security of wireless users remain the wireless industry’s top priority, and is why this commitment will continue to protect consumers while recognizing the companies’ need to retain flexibility so they may constantly innovate, which is key to stopping smartphone theft.

The “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment” states:

Part I

Each device manufacturer and operating system signatory of Part I of this “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment” agrees that new models of smartphones first manufactured after July 2015 for retail sale in the United States will offer, at no cost to consumers, a baseline anti-theft tool that is preloaded or downloadable on wireless smartphones that provides the connected capability to:

Remote wipe the authorized user’s data (i.e., erase personal info that is added after purchase such as contacts, photos, emails, etc.) that is on the smartphone in the event it is lost or stolen.

Render the smartphone inoperable to an unauthorized user (e.g., locking the smartphone so it cannot be used without a password or PIN), except in accordance with FCC rules for 911 emergency communications, and if available, emergency numbers programmed by the authorized user (e.g., “phone home”).

Prevent reactivation without authorized user’s permission (including unauthorized factory reset attempts) to the extent technologically feasible (e.g., locking the smartphone as in 2 above).

Reverse the inoperability if the smartphone is recovered by the authorized user and restore user data on the smartphone to the extent feasible (e.g., restored from the cloud).

In addition to this baseline anti-theft tool, consumers may use other technological solutions, if available for their smartphones.

Part II

Each network operator signatory of Part II to the “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment” commits to permit the availability and full usability of a baseline anti-theft tool to be preloaded or downloadable on smartphones as specified in this commitment.

The following network operators, device manufacturers and operating system companies are participating in the voluntary commitment: Apple Inc.; Asurion; AT&T; Google Inc.; HTC America, Inc.; Huawei Device USA; Motorola Mobility LLC; Microsoft Corporation; Nokia, Inc.; Samsung Telecommunications America, L.P.; Sprint Corporation; T-Mobile USA; U.S. Cellular; and Verizon Wireless.

“We appreciate the commitment made by these companies to protect wireless users in the event their smartphones are lost or stolen. 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. At the same time, it’s important different technologies are available so that a ‘trap door’ isn’t created that could be exploited by hackers and criminals,” said Steve Largent, President and CEO, CTIA. “By working together with policymakers, law enforcement and consumers, we will deter theft and protect users’ personal information on smartphones.”

Oregon State Senator Bruce Starr, President of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), said, “The NCSL applauds today’s announcement unveiling the wireless industry’s commitment to reduce the number of smartphone thefts each year by providing anti-theft tools on future devices. This voluntary effort serves as another positive illustration of the wireless industry adapting to address consumer needs through self-regulation. The NCSL encourages your ongoing collaboration with consumers and the state lawmakers as we continue to work cooperatively to reduce the number of smartphone thefts annually.”

“While the Minnesota legislature is poised to pass the nation's first ‘kill switch’ law as early as next week, I have said all along we would welcome the industry's ideas and solutions to address this critical public safety issue. With today's announcement, CTIA and its member companies have stepped up to protect customers and promote public safety, and I commend and support their efforts,” said Minnesota State Representative Joe Atkins.

“I am encouraged by these steps to deter smartphone thefts and hopeful that that these measures will bring much needed protections to Chicago consumers,” said Chicago Alderman Edward M. Burke. “As the sponsor of pending legislation that seeks to mandate ‘kill switch’ technology on all smartphones sold in Chicago, I commend the smartphone industry for its cooperative efforts, but will remain watchful that these commitments are both upheld and result in the shared goal of reducing smartphone thefts citywide.”

“We got the kill switch technology solution we wanted to protect Illinois consumers. The wireless industry has agreed to provide a free preloaded or downloadable anti-theft application for smartphones to help protect owners if their phones are stolen. This tool would allow smartphone owners to remotely wipe their personal data and remotely shut down a stolen phone so it is not valuable to thieves. Today’s announcement is a significant step to provide additional protections to Illinois consumers,” said Illinois State Senator Toi Hutchinson.

Rhode Island State Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio praised the voluntary commitment by saying, “I am grateful to the participating carriers, device manufacturers and operating system companies for voluntarily coming to this decision to improve public safety. This is a move which is good for consumers and good for business, in my opinion. It gives consumers peace of mind and protects them from the threat of having their personal information exposed. The ability to make the system inoperable also eliminates much of the incentive for theft in the first place.”

“Smartphone theft is a growing concern around the country. That’s why we introduced legislation to try to stop the secondhand market for stolen smartphones. This agreement will go a long way towards reducing the secondhand market for phones that are stolen, and I commend the industry for taking these steps,” said Minnesota State Senator Katie Sieben.

The “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment” furthers the multi-layered approach previously announced to protect consumers and aid law enforcement. This proactive initiative includes blacklist databases, consumer education and federal legislation (S. 1070), sponsored by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, to impose tough penalties against those caught stealing devices or modifying them illegally.

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