Smartphone 'Kill Switch' Backed by Proposed Council Resolution

By Ted Cox on January 20, 2014 2:10pm 

 Aldermen Scott Waguespack, Nick Sposato and John Arena have all signed on to a resolution backing the implementation of a smartphone "kill switch."
Aldermen Scott Waguespack, Nick Sposato and John Arena have all signed on to a resolution backing the implementation of a smartphone "kill switch."
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — A proposed City Council resolution would call on the federal government to support a smartphone "kill switch" in order to deter thefts.

The resolution, submitted by Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), would ask the Federal Communications Commission to support such a "kill switch," which would wipe the data from a stolen phone and render it inoperable.

"We're just trying to do something to help the people," said Ald. Nick Sposato (36th), who has joined five other members of the council in support of the resolution. "I didn't realize it's as prevalent as it is."

According to the resolution, the Federal Trade Commission has determined that one of every three thefts nationwide involves a mobile phone, a crime commonly known as "Apple picking." Apple has led the way in developing such a kill switch, and its latest iPhone operating system has an activation lock meant to deter thefts.

The resolution cited the infamous 2011 death of a 68-year-old woman pushed down the steps at the Fullerton "L" stop in a cellphone theft — the thief received a 32-year prison sentence — and the Jan. 13 shooting of a 17-year-old in the stomach in another cellphone theft.

Just last weekend, 19-year-old Harold Washington College student Kevin Baker died from a gunshot wound inflicted in a smartphone theft in Chicago Lawn.

The Secure Our Smartphones initiative advocating a smartphone "kill switch" has been championed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, and the national coalition they've put together includes Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

They've accused some cellphone manufacturers and wireless firms of dragging their feet on developing a "kill switch," because of the lucrative market in selling insurance coverage and replacement phones.

The resolution calls a "kill switch" a "common-sense solution" and, if approved by the full council, would be delivered to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

 A proposed City Council resolution would call on the federal government to support a smartphone "kill switch" in order to deter thefts.
A proposed City Council resolution would call on the federal government to support a smartphone "kill switch" in order to deter thefts.
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DNAinfo/Wendell Hutson

The City Council proposal has been signed by Aldermen Sposato, Fioretti, John Arena (45th), Joe Moreno (1st), Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Pat Dowell (3rd). It has been sent to the Finance Committee for consideration.

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