Gascón, Leno say wireless group’s anti-theft commitment falls short 

click to enlarge George Gascón
  • Ben Margot/2012 AP file photo
  • San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said an announcement from a lobbying group for the wireless industry didn't go far enough in trying to prevent the theft of smartphones and other mobile devices.

A lobbying group for the wireless industry announced Tuesday what it calls a new commitment to helping prevent the theft of smartphones and other mobile devices. But almost immediately, the move was criticized by San Francisco leaders as falling short of eliminating the problem altogether.

CTIA-The Wireless Association said in a statement that the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment will help protect consumers while retaining flexibility for the companies that make mobile devices.

The policy states that as of July 2015, companies who have signed on to the commitment will offer devices with an anti-theft tool that is preloaded or downloadable at no additional cost. The tool will offer the owner the ability to remotely wipe personal data from the device and render it inoperable without a password. If the device is recovered, the owner will be able to restore it.

While some lawmakers across the country lauded the move in the statement CTIA provided, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said it falls far short of the kill-switch technology they want to see become law in the state.

In February, Leno introduced a bill he authored with the help of Gascón that would mandate that smartphones sold in California have kill-switch technology at the time of sale.

Gascón also worked with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to bring nationwide awareness to mobile device thefts.

After CTIA’s announcement Tuesday, Gascón and Schneiderman released a joint statement lauding the wireless group’s announcement as “a welcome step forward” even if it doesn’t go far enough.

But they derided the time frame for implementation and process of using the technology.

Leno also criticized the announcement.

“The wireless industry today has taken an incremental yet inadequate step to address the epidemic of smartphone theft,” he said in a statement.

All three said that they will continue moving forward supporting Leno’s legislation, Senate Bill 962, which would require all smartphones and tablets sold in California to come pre-equipped and pre-enabled with a type of kill-switch technology that would render stolen devices useless. If passed, the law would take effect Jan. 1.

“I welcome the wireless industry to join us in tackling this problem once and for all,” Leno said.

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