U.S. officials call on Apple, other mobile device makers to help stop smartphone theft

“On Wednesday, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that they will convene a Smartphone Summit next week wherein they will attempt to convince the largest players in the smartphone industry that they need to do something to head off violent crimes involving mobile devices,” Kevin Bostic reports for AppleInsider. “The meeting will take place on June 13 at Schneiderman’s office in New York City.”

“The two state attorneys will ask Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung to begin designing their phones and operating systems so that they contain a ‘kill switch,’ the ability to remotely render a phone inoperable,” Bostic reports. “Such an addition, the attorneys hold, would make smartphone theft a moot point, since any device would become useless once reported stolen.”

Bostic reports, “Between January 1 and September 23 of last year, thefts of Apple products in New York City were up 40 percent. Apple product theft accounted for 14 percent of major crime in New York City. In San Francisco last year, roughly half of all robberies involved a mobile communication device.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Sounds more like a societal problem than an electronic device problem.

How about, for a change, doing something to really deal with and change the behavior of the type of people that steal things from other people?

Remove iPhone from the thieves’ list and they’ll just go back to snatching purses, grabbing necklaces, etc. They’re criminals. That’s what they do. They steal things from other people. It’s not the fault of the things, it’s the fault of the thieves.

It’s as stupid as trying to deal with obesity by trying to ban something like large sodas. The underlying causes for the fat-entombed remain unresolved. To wash down their Twinkies, they’ll just buy two mediums instead, dummy. Now, you’ve got them drinking even more soda than before. Brilliant idea. Very effective.

You have a condemned dam that’s rapidly deteriorating. Trying to stick bandaids over one leak after another isn’t going to fix it.

We realize that asking a San Francisco District Attorney and a New York Attorney General to focus on the root issues of what creates crime as opposed to the inane and unending task of trying to limit things for criminals to steal could be controversial in certain quarters. With logic on our side, we’re quite comfortable with that.

Yes, it’s a lot more work and takes a lot more time to address the root problems. That’s probably why these politicians instead gravitate to easier-to-apply-but-wholly-ineffective bandaids.

iPhones don’t steal from people. People steal iPhones from people.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]

Related article:
The New York Times tries to blame Apple for smartphone thefts – May 2, 2013

38 Comments

  1. Any kill switch would presumably be a software solution — leading hackers to develop software workarounds. Sounds like a nightmare game of cat and mouse to me.

    Require a passcode to turn off the device and eventually tie it biometricly to a person, with sensors.

    As for mdn’s take. Great idea. What is your magic bullet for stopping robbers from robbing again? Oh yeah, there aren’t any.

    1. As I read it, I don’t think MDN is calling for a “magic bullet,” but instead to formulate ways to attack the root problem — societal breakdown that causes the formation of people without morals, who think it’s okay to steal from others — as opposed to trying to eliminate items for the criminals to steal.

        1. For a start, how about stop trying to ban the 10 commandments (“Thou shalt not steal”) and anything else the loony left considers to be “religious” from any public display or conversation?

          For example: The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States does not ban religion in schools. Children need to be taught right from wrong. For decades now, they have not been properly taught. What you see today is the result of decades of progressivism’s attempt to purge all traces of religion from daily discourse.

          You reap what you sow.

          1. Prayer has sustained our people in crisis, strengthened us in times of challenge, and guided us through our daily lives since the first settlers came to this continent. Our forbearers came not for gold, but mainly in search of God and the freedom to worship in their own way…

            Yet today we’re told that to protect that first amendment, we must suppress prayer and expel God from our children’s classrooms. In one case, a court has ruled against the right of children to say grace in their own school cafeteria before they had lunch. A group of children who sought, on their own initiative and with their parents’ approval, to begin the school day with a 1-minute prayer meditation have been forbidden to do so. And some students who wanted to join in prayer or religious study on school property, even outside of regular class hours, have been banned from doing so…

            A few people have even objected to prayers being said in the Congress. That’s just plain wrong. The Constitution was never meant to prevent people from praying; its declared purpose was to protect their freedom to pray…

            With this in mind, last May I proposed to the Congress a measure that declares once and for all that nothing in the Constitution prohibits prayer in public schools or institutions. It also states that no person shall be required by government to participate in prayer who does not want to. So, everyone’s rights — believers and nonbelievers alike — are protected by our voluntary prayer measure…

            I believe that faith and religion play a critical role in the political life of our nation — and always has — and that the church — and by that I mean all churches, all denominations — has had a strong influence on the state. And this has worked to our benefit as a nation…

            If all the children of our country studied together all of the many religions in our country, wouldn’t they learn greater tolerance of each other’s beliefs? If children prayed together, would they not understand what they have in common, and would this not, indeed, bring them closer, and is this not to be desired? So, I submit to you that those who claim to be fighting for tolerance on this issue may not be tolerant at all…

            The truth is, politics and morality are inseparable. And as morality’s foundation is religion, religion and politics are necessarily related. We need religion as a guide. We need it because we are imperfect, and our government needs the church, because only those humble enough to admit they’re sinners can bring to democracy the tolerance it requires in order to survive…

            A state is nothing more than a reflection of its citizens; the more decent the citizens, the more decent the state. If you practice a religion, whether you’re Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or guided by some other faith, then your private life will be influenced by a sense of moral obligation, and so, too, will your public life. One affects the other…

            We establish no religion in this country, nor will we ever. We command no worship. We mandate no belief. But we poison our society when we remove its theological underpinnings. We court corruption when we leave it bereft of belief. All are free to believe or not believe; all are free to practice a faith or not. But those who believe must be free to speak of and act on their belief, to apply moral teaching to public questions..

            “At the same time that our Constitution prohibits state establishment of religion, it protects the free exercise of all religions. And walking this fine line requires government to be strictly neutral. And government should not make it more difficult for Christians, Jews, Muslims, or other believing people to practice their faith…

            If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under. – Ronald Reagan

            1. We don’t want to hear that. We just want to do whatever makes us feel good whenever we want and we want to be able to dispose of any inconveniences that might arise as a consequence without any guilt or judgements from others.

              “If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.” – Ronald Reagan

              Number of abortions in the U.S. since 1973’s Roe v. Wade: 56,289,800 and counting.

              Actions have consequences.

            2. well, that happens when 55,000 of your citizens are used as fodder for a death mill to enrich military contractors. I submit it’s not the American citizen who lost his moral compass but it’s illegal government installed on 11-22-63. I’ll agree that Reagan was able to restore that righted compass for a while.

      1. Politicians are not magicians. Societal ills cannot be solved by politicians becoming creative. Capitalism as a system tends to leave a whole group of people behind. Then there’s mental illness, which is likely not going to go away because of some new law. Societies are, by definition, a group of people, all individuals, who hold different values, but hopefully, all subscribe to some common thread. The bandwidth of that thread is seldom large enough to prevent some in society from preying on others. The very idea of politicians asking corporations to help stop theft is absurd because most politicians are guilty of the behavior themselves, only in a different, more obtuse fashion.

  2. You can tell these “officials” are amateurs because they don’t DO anything i.e. Apple needs to stop iPhone thieves. Then what are you being paid for?

    You’ll know when they become pro when they don’t KNOW anything i.e. Benghazi, IRS scandal, AP…! Going to be an interesting summer…

  3. Theft would be less of a problem if there weren’t a market for stolen goods. The buyers of stolen goods deserve as severe or more severe punishment than the thief. Similarly, prostitution would not exist if the “Johns” were the target of prosecution.

  4. The Accord has been the most-stolen car in America for the past decade, and I don’t see anyone demanding that Honda do something about it. But yet again, put “Apple” in any headline and the clicks will come…

    How come no ones grilling Microsoft about the deluge of stolen Windows phones?? Oh yeah, that’s right…

  5. A few years back, people were buying expensive basketball shoes for their children and thieves were targeting these ‘desirable’ shoes. iPhones are the latest ‘desirable’ thing and those government people asking for something to be done about it are forgetting the past. Some people are looking for victims to prey upon for many reasons. How about tackling these lack of morals by teaching these needed virtues in school or church?

  6. I don’t see the problem with this. I agree it’s a deeper societal problem but why does everyone have an issue with the idea of a kill switch in a phone. I had a phone stolen and it was obvious the carrier could care less. Why because if that phone was used it meant more money in their pocket.

    Compatring a stolen car doesn’t work. A kill switch in a car is available aftermarket but it’s not worth putting in all cars. Most cars are stolen by pros for parts. Making a car undrivable after the fact wouldn’t lessen the market for them. Phones won’t be stolen for parts. If there is no market for them because they are useless once reported stolen then the crime isn’t worth it.

      1. You have deconstructioned my implication that your government should be focusing on the tools of violent crime rather than the targets of those crimes in one sentence. Bravo, here’s a cookie.

  7. MDN take is utterly wrong.

    Limits on large sodas have been proven effective. Stupid people buy the largest soda because they are easily convinced that they get best “bang for the buck’, and they drink the whole thing, not because they are thirsty, but because they paid for it and they don’t want to waste. Make the largest one half the size and they’ll drink half. Anyone who refuse to recognise this is clearly dishonest, with some political agenda.

    Making a “kill switch” (which actually does exist, in a way, on an iPhone, allowing user to remotely wipe the device to protect private data) can’t be all that much of an effort for handset makers. There is absolutely no way to argue against it. What would possibly be bad about having this option available? A smartphone is not a pair of fancy sneakers; it can cost upwards of $500. Apple has already developed core technology that supports “Find my phone” and other similar functionality. Fairly little effort is required to modify this to help retrieval of stolen devices (or at least their disabling).

    Most importantly, a mindset must be changed. Neither carriers, nor Apple, has so far ever been interested in helping to recover stolen devices, even when the effort required was rather minimal. Even the law enforcement tends to be indifferent. Not once have I heard of a story where person reported a stolen MBP, submitted all the location info obtained through “Find my Mac”, and police sent him away, claiming lack of proper procedures for searching the relevant location. What good is the technology if the law enforcement hasn’t caught up to it? For every one success story about a recovered MBP and apprehended thief, there are ten where the frustrated owner with “Find My Phone” details kept banging police doors in vain.

    It is all nice and great, talking about preventing or at least reducing crime and all (Giuliani and Bloomberg have actually done something about it in NYC over the past 20 years), but those efforts require massive investment of time, energy and money. Putting a “kill switch” feature in a smartphone OS is a much cheaper, simpler and easier solution to a growing problem.

    Arguing against is plain stupid.

      1. It seems that you didn’t read the MDN take beyond the first line:

        …”How about, for a change, doing something to really deal with and change the behavior of the type of people that steal things from other people?

        Remove iPhone from the thieves’ list and they’ll just go back to snatching purses, grabbing necklaces, etc. (…) It’s not the fault of the things, it’s the fault of the thieves. (…)

        iPhones don’t steal from people. People steal iPhones from people.

        To anyone with reasoning mind, the take says: “creating a kill switch will NOT help”. It clearly and unambiguously argues that this is unnecessary and pointless; exactly the same way it argues that there should be no regulation on purchasing and ownership of firearms (the ever-so-popular “people kill people”).

        To anyone with a reasoning mind, these arguments are idiotic. A “kill-switch” in an iPhone that renders it useless after a theft will obviously reduce the volume of iPhone theft. Thieves steal iPhones because they are so easy to grab without getting caught, and they cost so much. The risk/reward is too high to pass up. Same as that “people kill people” (because guns make it so much easier to kill someone). Risk/reward makes is so much easier. Remove that one factor from the equation and it becomes a bit more difficult. Some thieves will continue to steal, because that is what they do, but many, who only stole an occasional iPhone because their marks were so easy, will likely try moving to something more difficult and quickly get caught. And let us not begin a debate on uselessness of guns in one’s home…

        1. Nothing in MDN’s take precludes manufacturers from making a kill switch for smartphones.

          MDN doesn’t say “don’t make bandaids,” MDN says “don’t just make bandaids.” If you do, the root problem will only shift to another item to be stolen.

          “Anyone with reasoning mind” can clearly understand what MDN is saying and that what they are saying is right.

          1. You’re twisting MDN’s message to fit your political view.

            MDN clearly stated that kill switch is essentially a wasted effort, because “iPhones don’t steal iPhones — people do”.

            Apple can’t really do much more beyond “just making bandaids”. Hypothetically, they could set up some NGO (a charity of some kind), which would focus on educating high-risk communities, reducing the numbers of potential future criminals, or increasing law enforcement in such communities, or whatever else works best to reduce crime. But all that is really way beyond any scope here, which is iOS and “kill-switch” feature.

            1. “You’re twisting MDN’s message to fit your political view.”

              lol, ya made me blow coffee threw my nose on that one Predrag:

              hypocrisy |hiˈpäkrisē|

              noun ( pl. hypocrisies )
              the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.
              ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French ypocrisie, via ecclesiastical Latin, from Greek hupokrisis ‘acting of a theatrical part,’ from hupokrinesthai ‘play a part, pretend,’ from hupo ‘under’ + krinein ‘decide, judge.’

  8. I’m thinking Apple could put, in the iPhone case, the equivalent of a dye pack that banks use in their money bags.

    Then, when the authorities see a miscreant with a blue hand they just cut the hand off. Once every miscreant has lost both hands, the problem is gone.

    1. It might be a bit drastic, considering the possibility of false positives.

      There were many occasions when I accidentally picked up someone else’s iPhone instead of mine (when everyone has an iPhone, it becomes easy to mix them up). On one occasion, the person activated “find my phone” and sent some warning message to a presumed thief. It would be a bit of a drag to have a hand cut of because of a simple misunderstanding…

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