With cell phone thefts surging across the country, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) today introduced legislation to require a "kill switch" on smartphones to help protect consumers and deter thieves. The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act is supported by a broad coalition of key stakeholders, such as the Major Cities Chiefs Association, members of the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative including founders New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, as well as Consumers Union. According to the Federal Communications Commission, nearly one-in-three robberies involve cell phone theft, with criminals targeting smartphones for their high resale value and for the valuable personal and financial information they contain. The legislation empowers victims of cell phone theft with the decision to keep their information private by wiping away personally identifiable information from their device and rendering the phone inoperable to thieves. Some smartphones already have this technology.
"Cell phone theft has become a big business for thieves looking to cash in on these devices and any valuable information they contain, costing consumers more than $30 billion every year and endangering countless theft victims," Senator Klobuchar said. "This legislation will help eliminate the incentives for criminals to target smartphones by empowering victims to take steps to keep their information private, protect their identity and finances, and render the phone inoperable to the thieves."
"This bill provides important reform and relief. Our cell phones play an essential role in our day to day lives -- from connecting us to family and friends to paying our credit card bills and accessing our bank accounts. As essential as they are to us, they are prime targets for thieves," Senator Mikulski said. "This legislation will help put consumers in control of their cell phone data through a "kill switch' to immediately disable a stolen phone. Victims of cell phone theft should be able to fight back so they aren't victimized again through data and identity theft. And thieves should know that whenever they steal a cell phone, they won't be able to use it or sell it."
"Consumers whose cell phones are lost or stolen should be able to remotely make the devices inoperable and delete personal information from them at a moment's notice and at no extra cost," Senator Blumenthal said. "By requiring wireless carriers to install kill switch technology, this bill forces them to catch up with thieves whose thefts of cell phones cost consumers more than $30 billion a year."
"It has been very troubling to see the rise in smartphone thefts across the nation, particularly since these crimes can be violent," Senator Hirono said. "The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act would protect consumers by ensuring U.S. smartphones have an emergency "kill switch' to keep thieves from operating stolen phones and accessing private information. By making this function widely available to mobile phone users, hopefully we will be able to deter thieves and prevent serious crimes."
"We commend the Senators for their legislation to require deactivation of stolen electronic devices," said Commissioner Chuck Ramsey, President of the Major Cities Chiefs. "In major cities across the Nation, cell phone theft has rapidly become the most common robbery and most frequent street crime. So long as these devices are still operable, this crime trend will continue to escalate. That's why the proposed kill switch is the only way to get the job done. We look forward to the swift passage of legislation that will ensure stolen devices no longer have any value to criminals on the street."
"For the past eight months, the Secure Our Smartphone Initiative has been challenging carriers and manufacturers to install technology to end the epidemic of violent smartphone thefts plaguing our communities," said New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. "I applaud Senator Klobuchar for taking the lead in introducing federal legislation that would require the industry to stop dragging its feet and join us in protecting consumers. Senator Klobuchar's bold action to change the way the smartphone industry does business will help make our communities safer and help save lives."
"Smartphones have infiltrated virtually every aspect of our daily lives, but there's nothing smart about devices that attract violent crime when the technology to end this epidemic is readily available," said George Gascón, San Francisco District Attorney. "The industry is profiting at the expense and safety of wireless consumers everywhere."
"Smartphone theft is growing into an epidemic. It costs consumers billions of dollars a year, and puts their personal information at serious risk," said Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. "If your smartphone is stolen, you should be able to shut down the device and delete your personal data remotely. This bill provides consumers a "kill switch,' and importantly, it allows them to reactivate a phone if it's recovered. This bill protects consumers against smartphone thieves and cracks down on the secondary market where stolen phones are sold."
The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act would require all phones sold in the United States to include kill switch type technology free of charge that would allow the consumer to wipe their personal data off the phone, render the phone permanently inoperable to anyone but the owner, and prevent it from being reactivated on a network by anyone but the owner.