SURVEY FINDS ONE MILLION FEWER VICTIMS OF SMARTPHONE THEFT NATIONWIDE FROM 2013 TO 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2015
Alex Bastian, (415) 553-1931
Maxwell Szabo, (415) 553-9089
SURVEY FINDS ONE MILLION FEWER VICTIMS OF SMARTPHONE THEFT
NATIONWIDE FROM 2013 TO 2014
Decline Largely Attributed to Laws Requiring Widespread Adoption of Kill-Switch Technology
SAN FRANCISCO – District Attorney George Gascón released the following statement in response to a survey from Consumer Reports National Research Center showing that 2.1 million Americans were victims of smartphone theft in 2014. This reflects a 32% decrease in smartphone thefts nationwide from 2013, when Consumer Reports found that 3.1 million Americans were victims of smartphone theft. This is a considerable turnaround as 1.6 million Americans had been victimized in 2012.
“This is validation of what we knew to be the case all along, that if you remove the value of a stolen device you remove the incentive to engage in this violent behavior. It also reflects the fact that the deadline for universal adoption of this technology is looming. In just two weeks this technology will be enabled by default on all smartphones sold in California. The industry has indicated, and these numbers reflect the fact that, consumers around the country and around the world can expect the benefits of this technological solution. This wasn’t just a local problem, this was a global epidemic, and it seems we’re poised to see a dramatic reduction in violent robberies as this technology is implemented ubiquitously.”
After the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative (SOS) called on the industry to adopt a kill switch, Apple introduced Activation Lock in September 2013. While initially an opt-in solution, there has been a steady downward trend in thefts targeting smartphones since the implementation of this technology. From January 2013 to December 2014, New York City’s Police Department recorded a 16% overall drop in cell phone robberies, including a 25% drop in iPhone robberies—the first phone to adopt a kill switch. During that same time period, San Francisco recorded a 27% overall drop in cell phone robberies, and a 40% decrease in iPhone robberies. London has recorded a similar decline in smartphone crime. Comparing the 12 months prior to October 2013 with the 12 months prior to October 2014, smartphone thefts from persons dropped 40% and personal robberies of smartphones (crimes involving violence or the threat of violence) declined 38% in the year after kill switches were introduced. In London, the monthly average for the number of phones stolen has halved since September 2013 – resulting in 20,000 fewer victims annually.
The Secure Our Smartphones Initiative attributes the decline to the deterrent effect of a kill switch. The technology allows a user to deactivate a stolen phone, making it unusable even if the memory is wiped and operating system is reinstalled. This makes stolen phones worthless to resell on the secondary market, taking away the economic incentive to steal them. If the rightful owner of a stolen phone recovers it, they can reactivate it. Additionally, however, the technology ensures less tech savvy consumers don’t have to take any actions to ensure their device is worthless on the secondary market, thereby sustaining the deterrence value. Thieves who wipe a stolen device will still need the original user credentials to reactive the device on a new wireless network – credentials they will not have.
This data demonstrates the importance of immediately implementing life-saving technology for all smartphones on an opt-out basis. However, while the default setting on iOS 8 is for the kill switch to be active, all other kill switches are currently available only on an opt-in basis. The S.O.S. Initiative is calling for kill switches to be made a standard opt-out function on all smartphones and other mobile devices. Current solutions ensure many devices have the solutions, but thieves can’t tell which devices have the technology enabled and which do not. As a result, until all smartphones have the technology enabled by default, all wireless consumers remain potential targets for thieves.
In August of 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 962 into law requiring all smartphones sold in the Golden State after July 1, 2015 to include this technology on an opt-out basis. The industry has said that they will not be rolling out a California specific phone. They have indicated that all smartphones sold in the United States will meet the requirements established by the California law.