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London mayor joins call for anti-theft features in smartphones

August 07, 2013|By Paresh Dave
  • London Mayor Boris Johnson, posing on a crane at DP World London Gateway Port on July 30, plans to meet next month with representatives from the tech industry to ask them to build smartphones less attractive to thieves.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, posing on a crane at DP World London Gateway… (WPA Pool / Getty Images )

London Mayor Boris Johnson is the latest politician to back a group that’s pressuring tech companies to design smartphones that become useless if they fall into the wrong hands.

Prosecutors from San Francisco and New York state will now be joined by Johnson in spearheading the effort.

London law enforcement authorities say they have made a dent in smartphone theft in recent months because of some big crackdowns and extra patrols in theft-prone areas. But British media reports say several thousand thefts are still being reported each month in London.

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Johnson plans to meet with representatives from smartphone manufacturers in September. San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon and New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman recently held a similar meeting, where Apple and Samsung made pledges to improve security in upcoming devices. Other companies such as Microsoft and Google didn't make any commitments.

The Secure Our Smartphones group has advocated for a "kill switch" that would permanently disable a phone once reported lost or stolen. It's notable that the group's latest statement does not include the "kill switch" term.

CTIA, a trade group representing the wireless industry, said in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission in June that a kill switch is inadvisable. It proposed a series of alternatives, but the group did not respond to a request to provide more information about them.

Wireless carriers such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T face a Nov. 30 deadline to develop a database listing all LTE smartphones that subscribers report as lost or stolen. The database would prevent the phones from being reactivated on LTE networks in the U.S. and some places abroad, CTIA said. LTE is the successor to 3G and 4G networks.


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