Local Residents Respond to Potential \"Kill Switch\" for Cell Phones

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COLUMBIA - Local residents are divided after four major cell phone manufacturers met Thursday to discuss whether a "kill" switch on cell phones would help decrease national crime rates. Google/Motorola, Microsoft, Apple, and Samsung participated in the meeting.

The switch would allow cell phone companies to instantly deactivate phones users report stolen. Stolen phones are often used by those committing crimes to avoid tracking.

Columbia resident Chloe Bloom said she would like to see the switch implemented.

"I don't want people going through my contacts and messages and just finding out my basic info," Bloom said. "So that's probably why I'd want it automatic instead of like a day where they could have a full day of searching through stuff."

The meeting comes after the release of last year's cell phone theft statistics--a whopping 1.6 million victims.

Columbia resident Andrew Milz said he thinks the switch would hurt privacy more than help it.

"I feel like this kill switch is just another front for them, for the government to tell us, or the companies to tell us that they are trying to protect us, but it's just another way for them to have more control over our phones."

Last year, the FCC and CTIA-The Wireless Association, a cell phone industry group, created a database to prevent the use of stolen digital devices.

Resident Alejo Gonzalez said government power over phones is "almost an abuse of privacy."

"I think the government's just taking these steps and it's kind of going against the people now," Gonzalez said.

The FCC said many disabled cell phones still have access to WiFi networks.

Cell phone companies said the best way to contact them about a stolen phone is by calling customer service or your insurance company.

Ways to lessen your chance of having your cell phone stolen include:

  • Lower your phone's profile in public--try not to always be on your cell phone in public places 
  • Act now to minimize the damage of a phone theft--try getting apps like "Find my iPhone" 
  • Report the lost device to your carrier or the police