I hate to break it to you, but if you own a smartphone, you’re at risk for a huge area of crime today: smartphone theft. Unfortunately, smartphone theft doesn’t just happen when you leave your phone at the coffee shop; if you look online (or you may have even seen it on the news), there’s tons of security camera footage of crooks walking up to someone and just grabbing their phone. The victim can’t really do anything, since often they’ve just been punched in the face. Sure, there’s Find My iPhone, but taking the law into your own hands and going after a thief is more dangerous than walking around not paying attention in the first place. Enter the smartphone kill switch.
A kill switch is exactly what it sounds like: a remote way to wipe, and more importantly, deactivate, a smartphone. As of iOS 7, the iPhone has this feature (called Activation Lock). Simply log into a web browser, select the phone, and the phone is wiped and locked with your Apple ID password. Aside from this password, there is no way to use or access data on the phone, not even by connecting it to a computer and wiping it. The phone is completely useless. Sure, you don’t get your phone back, but the hope is that if every phone has this, thieves won’t even bother stealing them any more.
This is why some people want smartphone kill switch legislation. While Apple has already implemented the kill switch, not all phone companies have. There’s a reason for this: smartphone insurance is a multimillion dollar business. However, there now seems to be a shift towards the kill switch. Many tech companies, including Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and Apple, have signed on to a voluntary program making kill switches mandatory for all new phones sold after July 2015.
I think the kill switch is a great idea. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to legislate it (just from a big government standpoint), but I hope all smartphone manufacturers include this feature in new smartphones. Stolen iPhones go for a lot of money on the black market, but my guess is bricks do not. Making the two things one and the same will surely cut down on violent smartphone theft. ••