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Carriers reject phone theft 'kill switch,' prefer insurance profits

updated 02:14 pm EST, Tue November 19, 2013

CTIA argues nationwide database sufficient

Cellular carriers are reportedly rejecting calls for cellphone makers to implement "kill switch" technology to deactivate stolen devices. After reviewing e-mails between Samsung executives and software developers, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón believes the carriers are hesitant to deploy anti-theft technology because it may leave less incentive for consumers to purchase highly profitable insurance plans, according to a New York Times report.

"This solution has the potential to safeguard Samsung customers, but these emails suggest the carriers rejected it so they can continue to make money hand over fist on insurance premiums," Gascón said.

Apple recently expanded its Find My iPhone feature to include a new "Activation Lock" tool, which helps prevent thieves from restoring or activating a stolen device. Similar technology presumably could be added to alternative platforms, such as Android, however carriers have retained tight control over the software that is pre-installed on non-Apple smartphones and devices.

The carriers' trade group, the CTIA, has downplayed the kill-switch strategy, claiming that it would be vulnerable to hackers and would prevent users from reactivating their own recovered phone. The group promotes a different deterrent: a nationwide database of stolen devices. Critics point out that the database only discourages thieves from selling devices in the US, when many devices are already sold in countries that do not participate in such programs.

"We have repeatedly requested that the carriers take steps to protect their customers," Gascon said. "We are now evaluating what course of action will be necessary to force them to prioritize the safety of their customers over additional money in their pockets."




by MacNN Staff

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