Would a kill remote switch prevent theives from stealing smartphones?
Would a remote kill switch deter thieves from stealing smartphones?

Would you want your Smartphone to have a kill switch?

A New York State Attorney General and a San Francisco District Attorney are meeting with four major cell phone manufacturers to discuss the possibility of integrating a feature that would allow for the remote deactivation of the devices when stolen.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said on Wednesday that they will meet on July 13 to meet with representatives of the four largest smartphone manufacturers to discuss the idea. The prosecutors intend to ask the firms to include a disability mechanism on future mobiles that will render the devices useless if taken — which could eliminate the current incentives for theft and prevent smart-phones being sold on to other users.

The allure of compact high-tech with a high price-tag is causing lawbreakers to assault women and children to acquire them, an act that has been dubbed as “apple picking.”   If there was little or no point in doing so, the theory goes that these attacks would never happen in the first place.

“The theft of handheld devices is the fastest-growing street crime, and increasingly, incidents are turning violent,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “It’s time for manufacturers to be as innovative in solving this problem as they have been in designing devices that have reshaped how we live.”

I’m sure we can all think of dozens of occasions where we are in public with people who have no phone-etiquette whatsoever.  You just wish you could will their device to power off.  Well that is kind-of what law-enforcement has in mind, but as a deterrent to crime.

There are no known particulars yet about how this feature would be engaged.  Presumably the carrier would be able to send a signal to your phone telling it to power down indefinitely, something that could be undone if you were ever to recover the device.  We’ll have to wait until after the July 13th meeting before we know if this is something that will be added to new handsets at all, and if so, how it might operate.

So is this a feature you’d want on your phone or would you be reluctant for any reason to allow anyone with the ability to do so to not just terminate your smartphone tether to the digital universe but power it off completely?

Charlie Osborn – ZDNet.com