Smartphone users should be able to disable their devices if they are lost or stolen
About 10,000 handsets are stolen every month in London
Google and Microsoft have both revealed that they will integrate a ‘kill switch’ into the next versions of their smartphone operating systems, allowing customers to disable their devices if they are lost or stolen.
Google told Bloomberg that it will add a “factory reset protection solution” to its next version of Android
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s vice president for US government affairs, Fred Humphries, said that the company would be adding new anti-theft capabilities to its Find My Phone feature in Windows Phone before July 2015.
“With these additional features, we’re hopeful that technology – as part of a broader strategy – can help to further reduce incentives for criminals to steal smartphones in the first place,” Humphries said in a blog post.
The news comes after Apple introduced ‘activation lock’ and ‘delete phone’ to its Find My iPhone app in September 2013.
As a result, robberies involving the company’s products reportedly decreased by 19 per cent in New York in the first five months of this year. San Francisco and London have also seen Apple-related robberies drop.
New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman said the statistics illustrate the “stunning effectiveness of kill switches”, and has called for other smartphone companies to add theft-deterrence features to their devices.
US Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, and Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat, have both introduced bills that would require phones sold in the US to include kill-switch technology.
Last summer, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson also wrote to eight companies – including Apple, Samsung and Google – stating that about 10,000 handsets are stolen every month in London, and manufacturers have a “corporate responsibility” to help tackle thefts.
“If we are to deter theft and help prevent crimes that victimise your customers and the residents and visitors to our city, we need meaningful engagement from business and a clear demonstration that your company is serious about your corporate responsibility to help solve this problem,” Mr Johnson told manufacturers.
“Each of your companies promote the security of your devices, their software and information they hold, but we expect the same effort to go into hardware security so that we can make a stolen handset inoperable and so eliminate the illicit second-hand market in these products.
“We hope you would support this objective. Customers and shareholders surely deserve to know that business cannot and must not benefit directly from smartphone theft through sales of replacement devices.”