Nearly one in three robberies involves cell phone theft, with criminals targeting smartphones for their high resale value and for the valuable personal and financial information they contain
Legislation would require a “kill-switch” on smartphones to deter thieves, help protect consumers
Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) today renewed their efforts to combat smartphone theft. The Federal Communications Commission reports that nearly one in three robberies involves cell phone theft, with criminals targeting smartphones for their high resale value and for the valuable personal and financial information they contain. The lawmakers today reintroduced the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act, which would require a “kill-switch” on smartphones to deter thieves and help protect consumers. U.S. Rep. José Serrano (D-NY) introduced companion legislation in the House.
“As Americans store increasing amounts of personal information on their phones, thieves are stealing smartphones not only for the devices themselves—but also for the valuable data they contain,” Senator Klobuchar said. “This legislation will help deter cell phone thieves by ensuring that all consumers have access to the technology they need to keep their information private, protect their identity and finances, and render their 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.”
“Smartphone theft is a scourge that must be stopped before its severe harm spreads even more insidiously,” Blumenthal said. “There are now more mobile devices in this country than people, and 1 in 4 households are ‘wireless only’ relying solely on their mobile phones for their link to friends, family and even E911. Mobile devices have reshaped our lives, and we’ve poured more and more of our lives into our devices – photos of our children, banking and financial data, health and biometric information. This personal information should be stored safely and securely, and mobile operators have a responsibility to help consumers wipe sensitive data from devices remotely and make them inoperable by thieves and criminals. This function should be free and easy to use. Not only will this measure put these tools in place to protect valuable personal information, it will help put an end to the growing problem of smartphone theft – which currently costs consumers more than $30billion each year – by making stolen smartphones inoperable with this kill-switch technology. Thieves will think twice about stealing a $500 phone if it turns into a brick at the flip of a switch.”
"This legislation will help protect Americans by taking away a huge incentive for criminals to commit robberies,” said Senator Hirono. "Already, ‘kill-switch' technology on some devices is heavily reducing incidents of mobile device theft. By rendering all stolen mobile technology useless with the flip of a switch, we can protect consumers while making our country safer and a better place to live.”
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 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. The bill is supported by a broad coalition of key stakeholders, including 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, and the Consumers Union.