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Microsoft, Google OK ‘kill switch’ for phones

AFP-JIJI

As as part of an agreement with mayors and police agencies, Google and Microsoft said Friday they plan to join Apple in offering theft-deterring “kill switches” in their smartphone operating systems.

The companies confirmed the commitment, which was noted in a report Thursday by the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative led by the New York state attorney general with officials from San Francisco and London.

The coalition of more than 100 elected leaders and law enforcement officials from major cities said the agreement means the three main smartphone platforms will soon add the feature as part of an effort to curb an epidemic of thefts.

The report said Google Android and Microsoft Windows Phone will add the feature — which allows a customer to deactivate a stolen handset — after Apple started including it last year.

Google confirmed the news Friday without providing a date for the new feature.

“Yes, the next version of Android will include a factory reset protection solution to help deter smartphone theft. We will be releasing more details shortly,” a spokesman said in an email message.

Microsoft said in a separate statement it will introduce the feature ahead of the mobile industry target date of July 2015.

“The new theft deterrent features will be offered as an update for all phones running Windows Phone 8.0 and newer, though availability is subject to mobile operator and phone manufacturer approval,” Microsoft Vice President Fred Humphries said.