Major US telecom carriers blocking adoption of a kill switch for Android smartphones

(Credit: Samsung)

Samsung Electronic's recent announcement that the Galaxy S5, its latest smartphone, will include new anti-theft technology will again likely lead to strong opposition to this feature from the US' four leading wireless carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon,

In June 2013, Samsung promised federal law enforcement officials it would add new anti-theft technology to its smartphones that will allow owners to entirely deactivate their devices if they are stolen. But the top four wireless companies prevented the technology from being included in carrier-approved smartphones.

Analysts said this unexpected opposition was because carriers are afraid the anti-theft technology will seriously reduce their profits from selling phone insurance to cover thefts.

A recent study found that consumers could save an estimated $2.5 billion each year on replacing phones and buying premium insurance if a "kill switch" technology significantly reduced thefts.

The New York Times said major US wireless carriers have rejected the idea of a "kill switch" security measure being added to Samsung's popular Android phones.

San Francisco district attorney George Gascón is convinced carriers fear losing reliable profits that come from selling cellular insurance plans to customers. 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.

The carriers through the CTIA, the industry trade group that represents the international wireless telecommunications industry, has publicly stated that a kill switch "is not the answer" to mobile security, and has raised concerns that devices could be maliciously reset by hackers.

Instead, the carriers say their solution is a nationwide database designed to prevent stolen phones from being used on US carrier networks. The New York Times, however, previously reported the database is doing little to prevent celphone theft.

Legislation requiring every smartphone sold in the USA include a "kill switch" has been introduced in both houses of Congress, but no votes have yet taken place.

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