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Schneiderman requests information from leading wireless carriers on decision to reject anti-theft technology

by jmaloni

Submitted

Wed, Dec 11th 2013 03:00 pm

A.G. raises concerns regarding carriers' rationale behind rejection of proposal to incorporate free "kill switch" application

Schneiderman: It's disturbing that leading smartphone carriers knowingly dismissed technology that could save lives

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today sent letters to the CEOs of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, United States Cellular Corp. and Sprint seeking information regarding their decision to prohibit Samsung from pre-loading an opt-out "kill switch" application on approved smartphones. This default feature would enable legitimate smartphone users to "brick" their stolen phones remotely and render them permanently inoperable when they fall into the wrong hands.

As co-chair of the "Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.)" initiative with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and London Mayor Boris Johnson, Schneiderman has been leading an international coalition of prosecutors, police chiefs, attorneys general, public officials and consumer activists in pushing phone manufacturers and carriers to roll out anti-theft technology immediately, to remove the economic incentives behind smartphone thefts.

"For the past six months, the Secure Our Smartphone initiative has called on the industry to put safety before profits and stop this violent epidemic. Considering this, it's disturbing that the nation's leading smartphone carriers knowingly dismissed technology that could save lives," Schneiderman said. "My office will determine whether these companies allowed their business relationships to influence their ability to take immediate action against theft. In the meantime, our coalition will continue to demand that the industry take every available step to ensure the security of our citizens."

"When we met with the manufacturers in June, there was agreement that these solutions would be implemented within a year," Gascón said. "That deadline is rapidly approaching. We cannot standby while the carriers continue to put up roadblocks."

The attorney general's letter urges carriers to embrace kill-switch technology "as a simple yet effective way to protect subscribers" from the spike in violent street crimes involving smartphone thefts, which has been observed in communities worldwide. A Harris poll of phone owners found nearly 10 percent said their phone had been stolen at one point. Notably, a recent study found that lost and stolen cell phones cost consumers more than $30 billion last year.

In addition, A.G.'s the letter raises concerns regarding the independence of each carrier in deciding to reject Samsung's proposed "kill switch" from a competitive standpoint, as the first carrier to feature free anti-theft technology could use that as a selling point for consumers who care about safety and security.

The letter notes, "The first carrier to incorporate a kill switch on Samsung smartphones would burnish its reputation not only as the carrier of choice for consumers who want the best anti-theft technology, but also as a responsible corporate citizen."

Schneiderman has also made a "document hold" request, asking the carriers to preserve any documents and/or communications pertaining to the decision to reject the "kill switch."

Schneiderman is requesting all the leading carriers provide a detailed explanation of their decision to reject Samsung's proposal and any other kill-switch technologies. Their replies are due to his office by Dec. 31.

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