Do You Want a Kill Switch for Your Smartphone?

Do you want a “kill switch” for your smartphone? On Tuesday, the CTIA just announced its Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment and a huge number of network operators, device manufacturers, and operating systems companies have agreed to participate. This only applies to the United States; if you live outside the country you are out of luck for now.

Smartphones manufactured after July 2015 will have anti-theft software already preloaded or available for the user to download. Capabilities of the anti-theft tool will include:

  1. Wipe clean all of your personal data remotely in the event your smartphone is either lost or stolen.
  2. Render your smartphone inoperable unless you have a password or PIN, stopping unauthorized users from gaining access to your phone. The 911 emergency feature will still be active per the FCC rules.
  3. Reactivation of the smartphone will be stopped (along with factory resets) unless you are the authorized user on the account.
  4. If your smartphone is recovered, you will have the ability to restore your data (to a feasible extent via the cloud).

Why hasn’t a kill switch been installed on our smartphones from the start? The answer – it’s all about profits. According to Consumer Reports, 1.6 million phones were stolen in 2012. Consumers pay approximately $500 million per year to replace stolen phones.

We can’t forgot about insurance plans to cover theft and loss. Americans spend $2 BILLION on insurance premiums per year. Combine this number with the cost of replacing our phones and the industry stands to lose almost $2.5 billion dollars! No wonder why we don’t have kill switches on our phones.

After reading the commitment, there is one more thing that stands out. The anti-theft software doesn’t have to be preloaded on the phone; they are relying on the consumer to be proactive and download the software themselves. Having the kill switch preloaded on our phones would just be too easy, and it would reduce profits for the cell phone companies and insurance providers.


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