Google, Samsung and others agree to anti-theft remote kill-switch

April 15, 2014
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Most smartphones will have the ability for users to remotely wipe and lock them down in case they’re stolen after July 2015 thanks to a new industry initiative.

Google, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung joined the top five U.S. carriers and other companies like Apple, Microsoft, Huawei, and Nokia in agreeing to the initiative. The idea is that everyone will have the chance to protect the data on their phone and prevent the phone from being used by someone else if its ever stolen. Of course, users will be able to restore their phone data when they have access to the device, if they ever get their device back.

The initiative comes in response to numerous states considering laws that mandate such a kill-switch in an effort to stem smartphone theft. California state Senator Mark Leno told Re/code the initiative doesn’t go far enough, though. “Only weeks ago, [the wireless industry] claimed that the approach they are taking today was infeasible and counterproductive,” Leno said. “While I am encouraged they are moving off of that position so quickly, today’s ‘opt-in’ proposal misses the mark if the ultimate goal is to combat street crime and violent thefts involving smartphones and tablets.”

The kill-switch being opt-in means if you don’t want the chance to remotely wipe and lockdown your phone, you can simply not turn it on. Of course, that also means that those who don’t know about the feature, or never think they’re going to use it, won’t really be protected. If the feature is included in the myriad menus you have to click through to set up a phone there’s a chance more people will use it. Of course, there’s also the chance some will  ignore it because they just want to set up the phone and get to downloading Instagram, Threes, or whatever app they absolutely need to access right away, leaving the phone unprotected.

There’s still more than a year for Google and Android manufacturers to include the feature in their phones. Those feature may come sooner, though. Some phones already have the feature, Apple included such a feature, called Activation Lock, in iOS 7, but there’s no feature built into Android at the moment.

Do you think an opt-in option is good enough, or should the remote kill-switch be opt-out instead?

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