Keep it secret, keep it safe

Love it or hate it, that kill switch is reducing phone theft

Despite wide-ranging criticism last year, the state of California passed a law requiring phones to have a remote “kill switch” by July 2015 and the approach, as well as similar legislation in other areas, seems to be cutting down on the number of stolen handsets.

Reuters noted on Wednesday that reported iPhone theft was down by 40 percent in San Francisco between September 2013 and 2014, as [company]Apple[/company] added such a switch at the beginning of that time period. New York saw 25 percent fewer iPhones reported stolen during that same year while London had a 50 decrease in iPhone thefts. The switch deters thieves because it allows the owner to remotely wipe and disable the handset, making the resale value plummet.

The information from Reuters is specific to the iPhone but surely has some relevance to other phones as well. Samsung, for example, added a similar feature to its [company]Google[/company] Android phones last year, letting you track the location of your phone or lock it until you enter your Samsung account and password. Windows Phones have no such kill switch yet, but I’d be surprised if Microsoft omitted the feature in Windows 10 for handsets, expected to launch later this year.

So what’s not to like about the switch if it can help reduce the chances of your phone — and your personal data — from being stolen? The two largest carriers in the U.S., [company]AT&T[/company] and [company]Verizon[/company], have previously voiced concerns that the switch could be used in reverse by thieves or hackers, possibly seeking ransoms for locked phones. And of course, carriers often sell insurance for stolen handsets, so the kill switch could be eating into that business.

Like it or not, the kill switch is probably here to stay, which is good news for phone owners.

4 Responses to “Love it or hate it, that kill switch is reducing phone theft”

  1. Dale Nelson

    I had a regular phone years ago that someone stole and Verizon flagged it for being stolen and not to be able to be activated.

    The crap about it eating into insurance for handsets is a bunch of baloney. It won’t affect insurance for damaged or dead devices so maybe the insurance carriers shouldn’t be bottom feeders in respect to whining about losing claims. They’re in the business to make, not lose money so this will mean less claims as the damage insurance is also part of the insurance. They just won’t get to sell you a cheap phone for a ridiculous deductible.

  2. Steve King

    Kill switches are great…just not something that the government needs to mandate to help justify their existence. Can consumers not direct what is necessary as product or service features based upon their purchase decisions? The slope is slippery…