Bryan Cohen Dec. 12, 2013, 8:21pm

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent letters Wednesday to leading wireless carriers to seek information regarding a decision to prohibit Samsung from pre-loading a kill switch application that would promote phone security.

The opt-out feature, which would be default on Samsung phones, would allow smartphone users to brick their stolen phones remotely, rendering the phones permanently inoperable when they get into the wrong hands. Schneiderman sent letters to Verizon, US Cellular, T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T asking for more information on why they dismissed the notion of the kill switch feature.

As co-chair of the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative, Schneiderman is leading a coalition in pushing phone manufacturers to roll out anti-theft technology to rid smartphone thefts of their economic incentives.

"For the past six months, the Secure Our Smartphone Initiative has called on the industry to put safety before profits and stop this violent epidemic," Schneiderman said. "Considering this, it's disturbing that the nation's leading smartphone carriers knowingly dismissed technology that could save lives. My office will determine whether these companies allowed their business relationships to influence their ability to take immediate action against theft. In the meantime, our coalition will continue to demand that the industry take every available step to ensure the security of our citizens."

The letter urges the wireless carriers to embrace kill-switch technology as a way to protect subscribers from the increase in violent street crimes involving smartphone thefts. A Harris poll of phone owners found that close to 10 percent of them said their phone had been stolen at some point.

"The first carrier to incorporate a kill switch on Samsung smartphones would burnish its reputation not only as the carrier of choice for consumers who want the best anti-theft technology, but also as a responsible corporate citizen," Schneiderman said.

Schneiderman is requesting that all leading carriers give his office a detailed explanation of their decision to reject kill-switch technologies. Replies are due to Schneiderman's office by Dec. 31.


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