New bill would require smartphone kill switch to curb ‘Apple picking’

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and other officials at a press conference announcing new legislation that would require smartphone manufacturers to create a "kill switch" for people to deactivate their phones if they are stolen Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and other officials announce new legislation that would require smartphone manufacturers to create a kill switch for people to deactivate their phones if they are stolen.
Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

A new bill gets to the core of “Apple picking” and cellphone theft, officials said.

Federal legislation announced Monday would require manufacturers to include kill switches in smartphones, enabling consumers to remotely delete data from stolen phones and making devices useless to thieves.

“Thieves are not going to stop stealing smartphones until they know that smartphones are all worthless,” New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

The law, sponsored by Bronx Rep. Jose Serrano, would be enforced by the Federal Communications Commission and help cut down on an increasing number of smartphone thefts in the city and across the country, officials said.

Last year, 20 percent of robberies in New York City targeted such devices, a 40 percent increase from the year before.

Officials hope making devices worthless will deter future thieves. When Apple introduced an “activation lock” for its devices last year, more thieves targeted Samsung products, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said.

“There’s a quick fix for this,” Bratton said. “Let’s get it done.”

Though cellphone manufacturers and service providers have expressed willingness to combat “Apple picking,” officials said there hasn’t been enough incentive for them to implement technological advances.

“This cannot only be about profits, this is about bringing crime down and this is about making sure people don’t lose their lives and don’t get hurt,” Serrano said.

City resident Annie Palazzolo, whose sister Megan Boken was killed during a smartphone robbery in St. Louis, Mo., urged companies to implement kill switch technology.

“She paid the ultimate price. Because someone wanted to steal her brand-new iPhone, Megan lost her life at age 23,” Palazzolo said.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter @AnnaESanders


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