Smartphone Thefts Drop As Remote Disabling Rises, Consumer Reports Says


It's a tough time to be in the business of stealing smartphones, says the Washington Post. Apple started letting users clear data and disable their iPhones remotely in 2013 with its “Find My iPhone” feature, and Android is expected to adopt the function soon. That makes it harder for thieves to do much with a stolen smartphone: If it doesn't work, it's not worth much on the black market. Such technology appears to be turning away would-be thieves: A third fewer Americans say they had phones stolen last year compared to 2013, says a new Consumer Reports study. An estimated 2.1 million in the U.S. had their phones stolen last year, down from 3.1 million in 2013. The number doubled between 2012 and 2013.

That’s what policymakers hoped for as they've pushed for “kill switches” to become standard in smartphones. There is proposed legislation in Congress and laws in states such as Minnesota and California as phone thefts soared in recent years. Those laws concerned privacy activists, who said kill switches could be used improperly, if law enforcement agencies, for example, abuse such features when targeting a suspect.

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