Prosecutors push for 'kill switch' to prevent smartphone thefts

Wed Jun 5, 2013 9:48pm EDT
 
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By Ronnie Cohen

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - In a push to curb cellphone thefts, prosecutors for New York state and the city of San Francisco said on Wednesday they plan to meet with industry representatives to urge them to install switches to disable stolen smartphones.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said they will meet on June 13 with representatives of the four largest smartphone manufacturers.

They said they will ask the industry to place "kill switches" on mobile devices to render them inoperable when stolen, eliminating any incentive for theft.

"With 1.6 million Americans falling victim to smartphone theft in 2012, this has become a national epidemic," Gascon said in a statement. "Unlike other types of crimes, smartphone theft can be eradicated with a simple technological solution."

Gascon and Schneiderman said representatives of Apple Inc, Google Inc's smartphone maker Motorola Mobility, Samsung Electronics and Microsoft Corp would attend the summit in New York.

Last month, two men in San Francisco severely cut a 27-year-old tourist's face and throat while robbing his iPhone. In April 2012, a 26-year-old chef was killed while being robbed of his iPhone on his way home to the Bronx.

"The theft of handheld devices is the fastest-growing street crime, and increasingly, incidents are turning violent," Schneiderman said. "It's time for manufacturers to be as innovative in solving this problem as they have been in designing devices that have reshaped how we live."

Representatives for Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, Google and a cellphone trade group either declined to comment or were not immediately available for comment.   Continued...

 
A woman looks at her smartphone prior to the 138th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland May 18, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque