Senator sends letter to phone companies, calling for more theft protection

Sen. Amy Klobuchar sent a letter Monday to the nation’s four biggest cellphone service providers, urging a crackdown on phone thefts.

In her note to executives at Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she expects “wireless carriers to compete against one another to ensure consumers are offered the most advanced security features and offerings.” Consumer Reports projects that 1.6 million Americans were victims of smartphone theft. Klobuchar requested the companies provide more information to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee by Jan. 9. Specifically, she asked for details about:

  • Whether companies received offers from handset manufacturers to install “kill switch” technology, the ability to disable a stolen smartphone. And why, if installed, the company has or has not adopted such technology.

  • Whether companies have considered including this solution on handsets made by manufacturers now competing with Apple’s activation lock technology that operates as a “kill switch” on iPhones.

  • How companies will include such technology options at no cost to consumers in the future and how phone security offerings differ from competitors. “Identifying ways to curb mobile device theft is a top priority of mine and I will continue to advocate for the American wireless consumer,” Klobuchar wrote. “I also believe additional action to protect wireless consumers is necessary and that’s why I am asking you for this information. The status quo is not acceptable.”

CNN reports that major U.S. wireless carriers have been reluctant to embrace kill-switch features because they claim that the technology can be compromised by hackers and that the damage is difficult to reverse.

Klobuchar has co-sponsored legislation with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., that adds criminal penalties of up to five years in jail for tampering with cellphones to circumvent service bans on stolen phones.

H/T Sam Lane