Proposed federal law would require smartphone 'kill switches'

Posted:
in iPhone edited February 2014
Legislation introduced by a cadre of U.S. senators on Thursday looks to mandate the inclusion of a remote "kill switch" for all smartphones sold in America.

Activation Lock
Screenshot of Apple's Activation Lock feature. | Source: Apple


According to a brief overview of the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act as seen on U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's (D-MN) website, the proposed bill calls for smartphones to be equipped with technology that can wipe user data and render the device inoperable when stolen.

Sen. Klobuchar is accompanied by Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) in introducing the legislation.

As noted by Re/Code, the legislation is similar to a California proposal that seeks the deployment of kill switch technology in a wide range of devices. It appears the federal version is more narrow, however, as it primarily aims to secure cellular-enabled devices like smartphones.

The publication pointed to a statement from wireless industry coalition CTIA's vice president of government affairs Jot Carpenter, who disagrees with the Senate's proposed solution.

"While Senator Klobuchar and CTIA are of like mind when it comes to wanting to prevent the theft of wireless devices, we clearly disagree on how to accomplish that goal," Carpenter said. "Rather than impose technology mandates, a better approach would be to enact Senator Schumer's legislation to criminalize tampering with mobile device identifiers. This would build on the industry's efforts to create the stolen device databases, give law enforcement another tool to combat criminal behavior, and leave carriers, manufacturers, and software developers free to create new, innovative loss and theft prevention tools for consumers who want them."

Apple currently has such a system built into iOS with Find My iPhone, an app and corresponding iCloud-based service that can remotely track, lock, disable and wipe an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. With iOS 7, Find My iPhone was updated to include password protection and Activation Lock, the latter of which is an opt-in feature that provides users an added layer of security against stolen phones.

When Activation Lock is switched on, nefarious users cannot turn off Find My iPhone, sign out of iCloud or erase and reactivate a given device without first entering the linked Apple ID and password. The idea is that a rendered-useless device ups the chances of recovery.

If passed into law, the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act would require all phones sold in the U.S. to include kill switch type technology free of charge. The burden would apparently fall on carriers to provide the solution, though how such a system would be deployed across a broad spectrum of devices was left unsaid.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 55

    Should be by choice, spurred by desire; not compulsion.

  • Reply 2 of 55
    Was RIM the first one to implement this?
  • Reply 3 of 55
    This is not required on Android phones simply because nobody wants to steal them anyway.
  • Reply 4 of 55

    The government probably thinks that it would be great if they could kill your particular phone.  Making too many crank calls, kill that phone!

  • Reply 5 of 55
    No one would want an Android Phone because it takes sooo long to unlock them that you forget what you were doing it for in the first place.. Apples new iPhone 5s with finger print scanner is so awesome.
  • Reply 6 of 55
    mrsneezy wrote: »
    No one would want an Android Phone because it takes sooo long to unlock them that you forget what you were doing it for in the first place.. Apples new iPhone 5s with finger print scanner is so awesome.
    You swipe your finger across the phone... really hard dude.
  • Reply 7 of 55
    [COLOR=blue]This government "kill switch" idea really plays t[/COLOR]o Apple's strengths.

    What I'd like to see is the government give the police the right to stop and administer an intelligence test to anyone they see walking around with an android device.

    /s
  • Reply 8 of 55
    It would be awesome if the "kill switch" actually killed the person who stole your phone. And then posted the video to YouTube automatically.
  • Reply 9 of 55
    Thus far no carrier will implement a kill switch because when a phone is stolen and wiped it forces the old owner to buy a new one, plain and simple.

    The carriers don't go to too much trouble to deal with stolen phones because it would decrease their profits to do so. Currently it is easier to pay theft victims cursory attention and help them select a new phone at full price.

    As somebody who had an iPhone stolen, wiped and sold who-knows-where, I welcome this.
  • Reply 10 of 55
    It would be awesome if the "kill switch" actually killed the person who stole your phone. And then posted the video to YouTube automatically.

    That would be a killer feature!
  • Reply 11 of 55
    danoxdanox Posts: 675member
    No! No! No!, brain dead idea, build in a way to turn off a phone so that it can be hacked and used against you the owner, utterly stupid, just leave it alone.
  • Reply 12 of 55
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Danox View Post



    No! No! No!, brain dead idea, build in a way to turn off a phone so that it can be hacked and used against you the owner, utterly stupid, just leave it alone.

    What if someone hacked in and turned off *all* the cellphones? :)

  • Reply 13 of 55
    Originally Posted by ascii View Post

    What if someone hacked in and turned off *all* the cellphones? :)

     

    I’m torn between wanting to give Michael Bay ideas that are actually NEW and… allowing more Michael Bay movies to exist.

  • Reply 14 of 55
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     

    Should be by choice, spurred by desire; not compulsion.


    Whose choice?

     

    Right now, (in the US) the carriers have chosen to make you pay $10/month or more extra in order to enable this feature.

  • Reply 15 of 55
    Originally Posted by whatisgoingon View Post

    Whose choice?



    The choice of the carrier, at the demand of the customer.

     

    Right now, (in the US) the carriers have chosen to make you pay $10/month or more extra in order to enable this feature. 


     

    And, for example, if the so-called “un-carrier” decides to make it free–as has been the case with dozens of other features with telephones in the past (remember paying for call waiting? Caller ID? etc.)–the others will be forced to follow suit.

  • Reply 16 of 55
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,733member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    ...technology that can wipe user data and render the device inoperable when stolen.

    We don't want no Arab spring here thanks. :rolleyes: 

  • Reply 17 of 55
    irelandireland Posts: 17,771member
    This government "kill switch" idea really plays to Apple's strengths.

    What I'd like to see is the government give the police the right to stop and administer an intelligence test to anyone they see walking around with an android device.

    /s

    What's an intelligence test?
  • Reply 18 of 55

    Great, more fodder for the patent wars. :\

    /S

  • Reply 19 of 55

    Seems a smart idea. Over here (UK) we report the IMEI which renders the phone un-usable on phone networks.

     

    Oh and FWIW, I do like Android Device Manager cause I don't want any of my devices stolen and reused!

  • Reply 20 of 55

    Do you people really think that the government wants to mandate kill switches in mobile phones because of concerns over theft!?!?!

     

    Please.

     

    They want to deploy kill switches because it gives government more power over who can communicate and how and when.  In some cases, such as trying to thwart a real terrorist activity, this may not be such a bad thing.  But I am getting increasingly concerned over the government's ability to spy on everything we do and to shut down our ability to communicate with each other.  This is NOT in keeping with a free society.  It is more like a police state.

     

    I notice that it is Democrats mentioned in the article.  I wouldn't be surprised if there are some Republicans in on this too.  So it's not about opposition to either party.  It's about opposition to government becoming too powerful and having control over too many things.

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