Four major U.S. carriers—Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T—have reportedly rejected an attempt by Samsung to include a kill-switch feature in its smartphones. According to a new report from The New York Times, the Korean company wants to include the feature, at the request of lawmakers, in an effort to stifle increasing smartphone theft. But carrier executives allegedly won’t approve the feature because of the potential for lost insurance profit, which many customers buy to cover lost or stolen phones.
One lawmaker, San Francisco district attorney George Gasćon, has been working closely with Samsung to introduce the antitheft software. But in order to bring it to a consumer audience, it needs to be approved by the carriers first. However, Gasćon this week revealed that carriers are opposed to the initiative, and there’s no indication that the antitheft software will ever be approved. Gasćon’s information is based on internal emails sent between a Samsung executive and software developer.
“This solution has the potential to safeguard Samsung customers, but these emails suggest the carriers rejected it to they can continue to make money hand over fist on insurance premiums,” Gasćon said.
Throughout this year and last, we’ve seen numerous stories about smartphone theft increasing in frequency around the U.S. Lawmakers have reportedly met with a number of top executives from Apple, Samsung and Google to come up with solutions for the matter, and it appears the kill-switch solution is currently the best option. Apple has Find My iPhone, which gives users the ability to locate, play a sound and remotely wipe the device, but carriers seemingly don’t believe a kill-switch is the right move; Apple also has a new Activation Lock in iOS 7. Back in June, a filing with the FCC revealed that the CTIA felt “a kill switch [wasn’t] the answer.”
According to CTIA, enabling such a feature would pose risks to consumers if hackers ever took control, and potentially cause problems for the Department of Defense and law enforcement. CTIA said it has personally worked with law enforcement to come up with its own solution, a nationwide database that would deactivate phones that have been reported stolen, but the initiative apparently hasn’t worked because thieves have found ways to skirt the database.
Gasćon, of course, said he isn’t pleased with the current situation, and wants to evaluate how best to “force” carriers to implement a kill-switch solution. Unfortunately, with potential insurance profit waiting in the wings, it doesn’t appear carriers are willing to play ball. And, if a solution is eventually implemented, it certainly doesn’t want to hand that power over to consumers.