Credit: Kostenko Maxim
Apple and Samsung are among a number of major mobile manufacturers, network operators and operating system vendors who have pledged to include anti-theft kill switches on all their smartphones sold in the US that are manufactured after July 2015. This long-anticipated feature will allow customers to remotely lock their phones and delete sensitive data in case of theft, without the need for an additional app.
Apple, Samsung, Google, HTC, Nokia, Microsoft, Motorola and Huawei are all part of the kill-switch pledge, called the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment. Inclusion of these anti-theft services will come at no extra cost to consumers.
The anti-theft kill switch will be either pre-loaded or downloadable for smartphones manufactured after July 2015. The pledge, found on the website of the CTIA – The Wireless Association, does not specify whether older phone models will also receive similar updates.
The pledge promises four main features for the anti-theft kill switch. First, users will be able to remotely wipe data such as contacts, photos and emails from their phones. Second, they can remotely lock the phone so that only the correct password or PIN will unlock it. In this locked state, the phone will still be able to make emergency calls to 911 and any other emergency numbers programmed into the phone, as per FCC rules.
Third, the pledge promises that manufacturers will prevent unauthorized users from forcibly reactivating a phone "to the extent technologically feasible." Finally, the pledge promises that if users recover their stolen phones, they will be able to unlock their phones and recover deleted data that they backed up to the cloud.
Several US lawmakers have been trying to pass federal bills requiring similar anti-theft measures on smartphones and tablets. However, some criticize the CTIA pledge as not going far enough.
"We strongly urge CTIA and its members to make their anti-theft features enabled by default on all devices, rather than relying on consumers to opt-in," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon in a joint statement.