Schneiderman pushes ‘kill switch’ for stolen cellphones

December 11, 2013 Associated Press
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ALBANY— State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pressing wireless carriers to put safety over profits in his effort to require anti-theft measures to be installed in smartphones.

The Democrat is sending letters Wednesday to the nation’s biggest wireless carriers questioning the industry’s decision to prohibit Samsung from pre-loading a “kill switch” application. The device can be activated remotely after a smartphone is stolen and render the phone permanently inoperable.

“The epidemic of violent smartphone theft that is plaguing communities across the country is a national threat that requires a comprehensive solution from all aspects of the industry, including manufacturers and cellphone carriers,” Schneiderman said.

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He wants to put more pressure on companies to install the kill switch app.

Schneiderman is co-chairman of the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and London Mayor Boris Johnson. The group includes prosecutors and police seeking to remove the incentive for stealing smartphones in violent attacks.

More than half of all robberies in San Francisco involve a cellphone. The mayor’s office cites a 27-year old tourist who suffered severe knife wounds to his face and throat last summer after being robbed by two men who stole his iPhone.

In New York, Schneiderman said there was a 40 percent spike last year in cellphone thefts, sometimes referred to by authorities as “Apple-picking” after the computer company.

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