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Sen. Klobuchar Targets Phone Theft with New Legislation

Updated: 01/20/2014 5:30 PM
Created: 01/20/2014 5:17 PM KSTP.com
By: Megan Stewart

Senator Amy Klobuchar's new privacy legislation targets smart phone theft.

She'll be in Minneapolis Tuesday to talk about her bill that would require a kill switch on smart phones.

It would allow anyone who's had their phone stolen to be able to wipe any personal information from the phone and make it inoperable.

Klobuchar said nearly one in three robberies involves a cell phone. Theft of the handsets has become more common as they've gained popularity and value. Former Minneapolis mayoral candidate Mark Andrew was beaten for his phone at the Mall of America in December.

Klobuchar said cell phone theft costs U.S. consumers $30 billion a year. Apple iOS 7 incudes a feature, called "Activation Lock," that is aimed at making it harder for criminals to use or sell stolen or lost iPhones.

Klobuchar said while wireless companies have made strides, it is not enough.

Here's the letter Klobuchar sent to wireless companies:

Dear Messrs. McAdam, Stephenson, Hesse, Legere, and Meyers:

I am writing to express my concern regarding the increase in crimes involving the theft of mobile devices across the country. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, I understand that consumers are utilizing more mobile technology and this is spurring growth in our economy. Unfortunately, more and more consumers are also at risk of being targeted by criminals looking to steal cell phones and other devices for illegal resale. I appreciate the work the industry has done in creating a database to keep stolen phones from being reactivated, but more action is needed.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, almost one-in-three robberies involve phone theft and the cost to consumers of lost or stolen phones is more than $30 billion each year. I’ve heard from local law enforcement officials about the continued call for the wireless industry to engage with them further and to adopt “kill switch” technologies on devices. Additionally, state Attorneys General have suggested that wireless carriers have not taken adequate steps to fight cell phone theft.

As Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, I expect wireless carriers to compete against one another to ensure consumers are offered the most advanced security features and offerings. Your five companies are the nation’s leading wireless carriers, collectively serving more than 90 percent of the nation’s wireless subscribers. With that market share comes an obligation to do all you can to utilize technologies available to protect consumers.

While I understand your companies are continuing to work with law enforcement on the stolen cell phone database, it is clear that consumers want and deserve a comprehensive strategy to prevent mobile device thefts. That is why I respectfully request that each of your companies provides my Judiciary Subcommittee detailed information on the following issues by January 9, 2014:

· Information explaining whether you have had offers by handset manufacturers to install “kill switch” technology, and, if so, why your company has or has not adopted such technology.

· Information about whether you have considered including this solution on handsets made by manufacturers now competing with Apple’s activation lock technology that operates as a “kill switch” on iPhones. If not, please describe your reasoning behind the decision made by your company.

· How your company will include such technology options at no cost to consumers in the future and how your phone security offerings differ from your competitors.

Identifying ways to curb mobile device theft is a top priority of mine and I will continue to advocate for the American wireless consumer. I also believe additional action to protect wireless consumers is necessary and that’s why I am asking you for this information. The status quo is not acceptable.

Sincerely,

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar

Minneapolis/St. Paul

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