The much-hyped smartphone kill switch — which would remotely disable a smartphone and wipe its data — is set to become standard by 2015.
Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), Samsung and Microsoft (MSFT) — in cooperation with the five largest US cellular carriers — have agreed to the voluntary program announced by the industry’s largest trade group.
According to the CTIA-The Wireless Association, all smartphones for sale in the United States after July 2015 must have the smartphone kill switch functionality.
“We appreciate the commitment made by these companies to protect wireless users in the event their smartphones are lost or stolen,” Steve Largent, president and CEO of CTIA, said in a statement. “This flexibility provides consumers with access to the best features and apps that fit their unique needs while protecting their smartphones and the valuable information they contain.”
The idea behind the smartphone kill switch is to deter thieves from obtaining personal information on the phones. Privacy advocates and law enforcement say it would deter theft by rendering the phone inoperable and void of private data.
The new pledge marks a reversal for wireless carriers, who have resisted making the kill-switch feature mandatory. Industry representatives have said they fear hackers exploiting remote-kill technology, while critics accuse the industry of not wanting to lose revenue from replacing and activating stolen phones.
Carriers have faced mounting pressure from lawmakers, some of whom are working on laws at the state level that would require remote shutdown capability.
Users will note that some smartphone manufacturers already include technology to clear phones of data: Apple’s iOS 7 touts Activation Lock that stops reactivation of users’ phones.
The kill switch feature would be offered for free to consumers.