US senators considering smartphone 'kill switch' law

Phone makers would need to allow owners to remotely kill and wipe their devices

US lawmakers are bidding to force smartphone makers to include a ‘kill switch’ on all future phones.

Senators have proposed federal legislation that would require all smartphone makers to provide a feature that could render the phone unusable if stolen.

It follows an earlier proposal in California that would require phones sold in the state to include a similar function.

The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act has been proposed by Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn), along with three other senators, Barbara Mikulski (D-Md), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).

According to the draft version of the act, owners would need to be able to deactivate and remotely wipe their personal information from their device if it became lost or is stolen.

Only Apple’s iPhone currently comes close to meeting the regulations thanks to its iCloud functionality.

“Cell phone theft has become a big business for thieves looking to cash in on these devices and any valuable information they contain, costing consumers more than $30 billion every year and endangering countless theft victims,” Klobuchar said in a statement.

“This legislation will help eliminate the incentives for criminals to target smartphones by empowering victims to take steps to keep their information private; protect their identity and finances; and render the phone inoperable to the thieves.”

According to the latest statistics, nearly one in three robberies in the US involve phone thefts. In cities, that figure rises to more than 50 per cent.

It has led to some police departments calling the theft of mobile phones ‘Apple Picking’.

It is thought the recent increase in smartphones featuring fingerprint scanners is a direct result of moves by lawmakers to bring in such laws.