CTIA, Carriers Finally Agree to a Smartphone Kill Switch

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2014-04-19 Print this article Print

The reason? Those stolen phones mean that their previous owners will simply go buy a new phone, helping to ensure a steady stream of replacement sales. Those same critics suggest that carriers make so much money on insurance plans that they don't want to hinder reactivation.

I find such suggestions cynical in the extreme, especially the one about the carriers. For one thing, it's hard to believe that carriers want their customers to suffer criminal violence. In addition, if you've seen how many people damage or destroy cell phones in the course of daily activity, you'd understand the need for such insurance.

The carriers I've talked to say they share that concern. "The safety and security of our customers remains a top priority," Verizon Wireless spokesperson Melanie Ortel told eWEEK. "We look forward to manufacturers and operating system providers introducing smartphones that include antitheft tools with the ability to remotely lock, wipe and render inoperable those that have been stolen, and we remain committed to making those tools available to our customers."

Sprint spokesperson Crystal Davis told eWEEK that her company welcomed the antitheft effort. "We look forward to having these solutions available, and educating our customers on their use and effectiveness," she said.

The biggest news is that device makers besides Apple are on board. It may be that these companies have finally developed some level of concern for their customers, but it's also possible that they're swayed by the CTIA approach as a way to avoid much more strict legislation by states and perhaps by the U.S. government as reflected in a bill, H.R. 4065, introduced in February 2014. That bill, which would amend the Communications Act of 1934, is not even remotely voluntary.

Either way you look at this, it's good news for your business. The epidemic of phone thefts, which the bill being considered puts at one-third of all crimes in the United States, is getting worse. While it's likely that even a federal law won't end it, making the process of reactivating a stolen phone significantly more difficult will take much of the profit out of it and hopefully dry up the demand for stolen phones.

Even if the motives of some device makers might be open to debate, the end result is positive. Making the sale of stolen smartphones much less likely will eventually reduce phone theft and the related violence when the thieves turn to other, more profitable enterprises. It won't end theft, of course, but it should reduce it—and that's good no matter how you look at it.



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