iPhone could soon be required to install kill switches in all models in an effort to deter theft and other related crimes. Families of victims affected by these crimes have joined authorities in lobbying for a proposed federal law requiring all smartphone manufacturers to install kill switch technology in all models moving forward. The proposed legislation was introduced by Bronx Congressman Jose Serrano in the House of Representatives this week. A similar piece of legislation was also proposed in the Senate last month. The theft of smartphones and other related crimes have skyrocketed in recent years. In fact, it has become such an epidemic crime wave it now has its own niche offense moniker–“Apple Picking.”
New York City is one area where apple picking has become particular prevalent. Reported smartphone theft accounts for more than 20 percent of all robberies in the metropolitan hub. This represents a 40 percent increase in this particular incidence of related crime over the past year. These crimes are often accompanied by violence and in some cases death. The epidemic surge in smartphone-related crimes has prompted New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton have joined forces to push the proposed federal law mandating kill switch technology in all smartphones into law. In addition, individuals and families affected by smartphone-related violent crimes have lent their support to promote the proposed legislation, which would require all smartphones to not only have kill switch technology installed but activated at the time of purchase. One family affected by such violence includes the Palazzolos, who lost family member, Megan Boken, to smartphone armed robbery and murder in 2012. Boken was 23-years-old and seated inside her car talking to her mother when a teenaged assailant approached her car, pointed a gun, and demanded Boken’s iPhone. When Boken resisted, the assailant shot her dead.
The proposed smartphone kill switch technology would require manufacturers to provide iPhone and other similar technology users with the ability to purge their data in the event of theft. Therefore, making the devices useless, traceable, and of virtually no resale value if stolen. This technology would hit apple pickers where it hurts and provide a powerful deterrent against smartphone theft and other related crimes. Authorities are hoping that this piece of legislation and its future enactment will remove any incentive to commit such offenses.
The authorities have said that phone manufacturers can take the initiative on their own or face required implementation of the kill switch technology by the FCC once the measures are passed. Leaders have suggested that it would be in the companies best interests to proactively install the technology to reassure consumers of their interest in matters such as customer safety and personal data security. The proponents of this legislation have insinuated that corporate interests are responsible for this technology not already being mandated. Currently, most smartphones can be easily cleaned and re-activated under new plans. Moreover, most smartphones cannot be easily traced or the tracking software can be easily deactivated. Additionally, phone manufacturers continue to make money not only on re-activated stolen phones and apps, but also on new phones purchased by victims of such crimes, as well as the replacement apps that are purchase.
The proposed kill switch technology that could soon be mandated for iPhone and other similar devices could provide several advantages for users. In addition to the enhanced security features such technology would offer, there are also the enhanced privacy features from which users would benefit. Specifically, it could potentially eliminate the ability to hack users phone lines not only from other individuals but also government and media agencies. Tech users will be breathing much easier once kill switch technology is required as opposed to an elite feature that could be hard to attain.
By Leigh Haugh
New York Daily News