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Google, Microsoft pledge to add ‘kill switches’ in smartphones

Google and Microsoft are set to add a “kill switch” to the next versions of Android and Windows Phone operating systems. Coupled with the addition of a kill switch in iPhones last September, the development means that the top three smartphone makers- who corner 97 percent of the US market- will incorporate the function into their future mobile devices.

The announcement, attributed to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, was made alongside the release of a new report that outlined the effects of Apple’s kill switch adoption. Secure Our Smartphones (SOS), a law enforcement group that aims to eliminate the second hand market for stolen mobile devices, added to the mounting evidence that kill switches deter thieves.

Since Apple launched its kill switch function, called “Activation Lock,” the theft of iPhones decreased significantly in a number of major cities.

According to the SOS report, since Apple launched its kill switch function, called “Activation Lock,” the theft of iPhones decreased significantly in a number of major cities. In New York, the theft of Apple devices fell by 17 percent. It was the same in London and San Francisco, where iPhone thefts decreased by 24 percent and 38 percent respectively compared to six months before Activation Lock was launched.

On the other hand, robberies involving other smartphone brands increased. In New York, for example, thefts of Samsung devices grew by 51 percent compared to the same period the previous year. Two months ago, Samsung introduced a kill switch called “Reactivation Lock,”which it rolled out to Verizon and US Cellular Galaxy devices.

“The commitments of Google and Microsoft are giant steps toward consumer safety and the statistics released today illustrate the stunning effectiveness of kill switches,” Schneideman said in a press release.

The adoption of kill switches is said to not only have public safety ramifications. According to a recent study, it also has an economic effect. William Duckworth, a statistics professor from Creighton University, said that American consumers could save $2.5 billion per year if the technology gained wide adoption. So far, Minnesota is the only state to sign a kill switch bill into law. Similar legislation is currently pending in California, New York, and Illinois.