Samsung, Apple, Google, Microsoft, HTC, Nokia and Motorola are among the 10 major smartphone manufacturers that have agreed to adopt anti-theft measures in smartphones. Major US cell phone service carriers such as AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and US Cellular have also agreed to introduce tools that would enable the smartphone owners to lock their devices and delete all the data from them, should their phones be stolen.
According to an announcement of the wireless association CTIA, beginning from July 2015, all the smartphones, from the 10 companies which agreed to the measure, will either come with preloaded free anti-theft tools or they will come in a ready-to-download format, under a “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment” program.
These tools will help the device owners to shut down their phone and restrict it from being reactivated until their permission is granted. Moreover, the best part is, if the phone is ever recovered, the devices can be restored to their owner’s preference of settings.
However, Apple and Samsung, the leaders in the smartphone industry, had already decided to act and took individual decisions to include features that would allow device owners to choose when the phone can be reactivated if remotely reset.
CTIA President Steve Largent hailed the progress as an example of the industry working with regulators and consumer groups. In a statement, he appreciated the commitment provided by the smartphone manufacturers to protect stolen or lost devices. He further said that this step would encourage consumers to design their phones according to their needs and access the best of features without having to worry about the protection of their information or any other data the phone contains. He further called for more technology improvisation to prevent hackers and criminals from finding ways for further exploitation.
Samsung, Apple, Google, HTC and other smartphone makers and wireless carriers decided to adopt the anti-theft measures following increasing pressure on the telecom industry to do more to stem theft of phones. A number of lawmakers have called for, what has been termed as “kill switch” bills, which would require smartphones to come with an antitheft measure that would allow for the remote disabling of a device.
Part of the “kill switch” measures have been spearheaded by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. In a joint statement, both lawmakers welcomed the voluntary decision by the smartphone makers but said what they had advocated to prevent theft had fallen short.
The prosecutors had urged the phone makers and service carriers to carry anti-theft tools as a default in their products rather than giving the users an option to download them. While some manufacturers said they will include the tools as a default, some said devices would have the tools as a ready-to-download option.
Moving on, a number of state and local lawmakers also welcomed the anti-theft measures that Samsung, Apple, Google, HTC and other smartphone makers and wireless carriers have agreed to adopt. However, California state Sen. Mark Leno said that a voluntary agreement is not enough and the “kill switch” law should be made mandatory, otherwise crime will continue to occur. He said that even though the step taken is “incremental,” it was still “inadequate” to address the serious “epidemic of smartphone theft.”
By Faryal Najeeb