NY officials back smartphone ‘kill switch’ bill

The feature would let consumers remotely delete data stored on a phone.

Of all the features and apps that come with a smartphone, a “kill switch” is not among them. But that could change pending a federal bill that would require devices to come with a kill feature to deter thieves.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton Monday backed legislation from Rep. José Serrano of the Bronx and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota that would let consumers remotely delete data stored on the device. The feature would also make the smartphone permanently inoperable on any service globally and prevent reactivation.

Schneiderman said a kill switch would “end the epidemic of violent smartphone thefts.”

While stolen smartphones in the U.S. are barred from accessing domestic cell networks, they can be reactivated and sold in foreign countries, according to the attorney general’s office. In New York City, smartphone thefts made up a fifth of robberies last year, which was a 40% increase from 2012, the office said.

Bratton, meanwhile, joined Schneiderman’s Secure Our Smartphones initiative launched with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.

“This legislation appropriately calls for a collaborative effort amongst the cellphone manufacturers, consumers, and the law enforcement community in order to drastically reduce crimes associated with cellphone theft,” Bratton said in a statement.

Reps for Apple and Samsung did not immediately return a request for comment on the bill.