Should Apple, Samsung make kill switches to prevent theft?

Pickpocket stealing phone iStockphoto

As smartphones become more ubiquitous, stealing smartphones has also been on the rise. But should cell phone makers like Apple and Samsung offer a kill switch to deter crime?

According to the New York Times, San Francisco's district attorney George Gascon believes that major phone manufactures have a responsibility to create a kill switch to permanently disable phones that have been stolen.

"Unlike other types of crimes, this is a crime that could be easily fixed with a technological solution," Gascon said. He also told the Times that a meeting with Apple executives about anti-theft technology was fruitless. Apple did not immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment.

The Times points out that cell phone crime is on the rise. In 2012, New York City Police said that 40 percent of all robberies involved cell phones, the Associated Press reported. Apple's iPad and iPhones alone accounted for 14 percent of all crime, according to the Times. And there were 1,829 cell phones stolen in the District of Columbia last year.

Gascon tells the Times that smartphone makers should build in the technology to make it more difficult for thieves to profit from stolen phones.

"What I'm talking about is creating a kill switch so that when the phone gets reported stolen, it can be rendered inoperable in any configuration or carrier," Gascon told the Times.

But the industry is making moves to protect consumers -- and does have the framework for a so-called kill switch in place. Last year, with the help of the Federal Communications Commission, wireless carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile banded together to create a national database of stolen cellphones. Cell phone carriers will be able to permanently disable phones that are on the list, using a unique ID number called an International Mobile Equipment Identity Number.

Hardware makers also have services to assist in locating lost or stolen smartphones. Apple has an app called Find My iPhone for people to track lost phones and iPads. If the devices cannot be located, users can remotely wipe the data on their smarpthones or tablets. Samsung offers a service called Find My Mobile. Google does not include an app on its mobile operating system Android, but third-party developers offer similar services.

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.