Do Carriers Want to Stop Cellphone Theft?

When Samsung tried to sell its kill switch-equipped phones in the U.S., carriers objected.

by / December 12, 2013

In the U.S., 1.6 million mobile phones were stolen last year. The problem is especially bad in big cities. Half of all robberies in San Francisco, for example, involve a cellphone.

To make cellphones less attractive to thieves, the Korean government last August began requiring all manufacturers to install a kill switch that could remotely disable a stolen device.

But when Samsung tried to sell its switch-equipped phones in the U.S., carriers objected and forced Samsung to remove the technology. Why? According to a New York Times article, thefts are not only profitable for thieves, but cellphone carriers as well. Stolen phones are often sold overseas to circumvent the U.S. stolen phone database, and victims of phone theft must buy new devices. That’s 1.6 million devices per year just to replace stolen units.

Now, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pushing carriers to reverse course and allow kill switches. On his website, Schneiderman -- co-chair of the Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.) Initiative -- is spearheading an effort to lobby cellphone manufacturers and carriers to make the change. The initiative also has the support of legal, law enforcement and consumer groups across the globe. “We cannot stand by,” said Schneiderman, “while the carriers continue to put up roadblocks."

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