Kill switches to become standard on US mobile phones beginning July 2015

CTIA-The Wireless Association, the industry trade group representing the international wireless telecom industry, has entered a voluntary agreement with major mobile manufacturers, providers and operating system makers to include anti-theft measures in smartphones made in the USA.

Signatories to the agreement are Apple, Google, Microsoft, Motorola Mobility, Samsung, HTC, Huawei, Nokia, Asurion, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon. The agreement intends to protect consumers from smartphone theft and will also give companies the ability to innovate.

The signatories agreed that starting July 2015, smartphones manufactured for retail sale in the USA will have a baseline antitheft tool, otherwise known as a "kill switch," either pre-installed or downloadable. For devices made before July 2015, CTIA has assembled a list of apps consumers can use to locate, lock or disable lost or stolen devices.

The kill switch will be provided to consumers free of charge. Once activated after a theft, it will set in motion a series of security measures intended to protect the owner of a stolen mobile phone.

The kill switch will remotely erase personal information such as contacts and emails from a stolen mobile phone. It also needs to make the mobile phone inoperable to unauthorized users.

The kill switch must also prevent reactivation of the device without the authorized owner's permission. It will also prevent thieves from restoring the device to factory settings.

But it must enable the legitimate owner to reverse the measures that made the mobile phone inoperable to thieves, and to restore his personal data as much as possible.

A recent study found that US consumers could save an estimated $2.5 billion annually on replacing phones and buying premium insurance if a kill switch were available.

The New York Times claims major US wireless carriers have long rejected the idea of a kill switch. San Francisco district attorney George Gascón said carriers are afraid of losing reliable profits from selling cellular insurance plans to customers if the kill switch is adopted as standard.

These protection plans from carriers often cover lost or stolen items, but they almost always demand a high deductible (in addition to a regular monthly fee) when phones need to be replaced.

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