iPhone theft remains a major problem in many cities, leading a renewed push by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón to separate violence and iPhones by locking down the iPhone by default in iOS 7.
Gascón is behind a major push for better smartphone security which started earlier this year, before Apple added an Activation Lock to Find my iPhone that prevents a thief from resetting the iPhone or iPad without the owner’s password, and he is back in the news pushing Apple for a more aggressive stance.
In an announcement Wednesday, Gascón calls for Apple to turn on the Activation Lock feature by default when a new user sets up the iPhone. Citing a survey his office commissioned of 313 people in the San Francisco Bay area 85% of iPhone owners who responded to a survey already use Find My iPhone and the activation lock. His office argues that with such a high adoption rate the Activation Lock should be on by default.
As it stands, Apple prompts users to turn on Find My iPhone during the setup process, but it is one of the last steps users need to take before using their new iPhone, which means some people may skip over it. With Find My iPhone turned on, not only can the user Find Their iPhone if it is lost or stolen, but thieves cannot reset it to resell the iPhone across town or across the world.
If Gascón gets his way Apple will enable this feature by default so that there is less incentive for thieves to steal the iPhone. It doesn’t appear that Apple could meet this demand for users on iOS 7 at this time, but the company is working on an iOS 7.1 update which could double down on this security feature. During the iOS 7.1 installation it is possible that Apple could toggle this on by default.
In addition to the Activation Lock, Apple is pushing users to set up a pass code during setup of iOS 7, which is another barrier to getting into the phone and to set up the fingerprint reader on the iPhone 5s. Additionally, Apple is warning users that common pass codes are not secure, such as 1234 or 2580, in an attempt to educate users.
Apple’s efforts and the plea by Gascón are a good start, but with violent iPhone thefts on the rise in the U.S., including many with a knife or a firearm it’s may only be a matter of time before iPhone robbery includes a demand to unlock and turn off Find My iPhone. Thankfully this adds precious time to the process of stealing an iPhone, so it is still a deterrent.