San Francisco Supervisor London Breed announced this morning that she’s planning to write new legislation mandating so-called “kill switches” for all cellphones sold within the City by the Bay. Her announcement comes two days before California’s Senate considers a state-wide bill that would mandate the same technology in all cellphones sold in the Golden State.
The news follows rising cellphone thefts in San Francisco. Upon reporting the theft of their phone, a kill switch would allow cellphone owners to burn their phones, erasing all data stored within them. When you consider all of the personal information stored within phones and the fraudsters increasingly using that information to carry out identity theft, the move by Supervisor Breed and other California lawmakers just seems like common sense.
Not Just a Californian Concern
To some, the proposed legislation comes across as a stroke of paranoia. However, cellphone identity theft is a very real threat. According to the most recently available data, over 1.5 million cellphones are stolen in the United States each year. While most are sold off for their hardware value, many more are used as vectors of access to personal information and identity theft.
And this really gets to the crux of the issue. Despite the fact that identity theft by phone is markedly low when compared to overall theft statistics, the fact that it could happen is sign enough that something should be done about it. Cellphone adoption is incredibly high throughout North America, with 91% of adults and approximately 12 million, around a third, of Canadians owning one. Kill switch legislation, like that being proposed in California, could and, arguably, should be passed throughout the continent in order to protect hundreds of millions of people from increasingly aggressive cybercriminals.
Should cellphone manufacturers make an effort to better protect their consumers with kill switches? Let us know in the comments below!