Two prosecutors leading a nationwide campaign urging cellphone makers to embed a powerful antitheft feature in smartphones credited Apple and Samsung for moving in the right direction after a summit on the issue Thursday.
New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón have repeatedly called on the tech industry to create phones that would no longer be usable once reported stolen. They met in New York on Thursday with leaders of Apple Inc., Google Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., Microsoft Corp. and the wireless industry trade group CTIA.
In a joint statement after the meeting, Schneiderman and Gascón said they laid out clear expectations to the companies about what they want and how soon they want it.
“Apple and Samsung have taken steps in the right direction, but it is clear to us that the industry as a whole has more work to do to protect consumers from violent street crimes,” they said.
Apple announced an improvement to its Find My iPhone feature this week that requires a user to log in before doing anything to a lost device.
Samsung declined to comment, but Gascón told the Los Angeles Times last week that Samsung has promised to create a “kill-switch” feature in future phones. Gascón said he was disappointed that the company would not commit to making the feature free to consumers. He wants a free feature on phones that would work regardless of whether the device is off, has a SIM card or is tampered with by a thief.
The pair have said pilfered iPhones and Android smartphones draw big sums on the black market and that thieves are increasingly turning to violent means to nab the devices. At a press conference Thursday in New York, they were joined by the family of a 23-year-old woman who was shot and killed during a robbery. Her iPhone was reportedly the only item missing.
Critics have said the companies are not interested in deterring theft because many victims end up having to buy a new phone.
Google said it would continue to work the prosecutors. Microsoft, Apple, Motorola and Verizon Wireless did not respond to requests for comment.
Ahead of the meeting, Schneiderman and Gascón announced that five other state attorneys general, several district attorneys and professors from universities such as Harvard and Yale have now joined with them to form the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative. They plan to investigate the criminal, technical and economic aspects of cellphone theft.
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