FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is calling on the mobile industry to set theft prevention features -- such as remote-locking, remote-data-wiping and the ability to call 911 on locked phones -- to default on all devices.
While the current mandate over such features is defined by disparate state laws, Wheeler says that national implementation would “mark a key milestone in combating smartphone theft,” according to a FCC press release.
The request marks the efforts of an FCC organization called the Mobile Device Theft Prevention Working Group, which comprises industry representatives, law enforcement and consumer interest organizations. It was formed by the FCC last year to develop industry-wide recommendations about how to counteract mobile theft as such crimes are at an all-time high.
One in 10 U.S. smartphone owners are victims of phone theft, according to a study conducted last year by mobile security company Lookout, and 68 percent of victims never recovered their devices.
Though most of the respondents surveyed said that the data on their phones -- and not the device itself -- was the most detrimental loss, only 13 percent wiped their phones remotely.
While a California law passed last August requires smartphone makers to preinstall a kill switch and make it a default option, the CTIA, a trade group representing the biggest mobile carriers, balked at the measure, noting that different manufacturing protocols for different states would result in added expenses.