Will the 'kill switch' turn off California phone thieves?

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Kill Switch: Phone thief twilight time?

California State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and San Francisco DA George Gascon introduced a bill on Friday that's rattling the cages of carriers and mobile manufacturers in the earthquake-prone state. The bill requires a mandatory "kill switch" feature for all smartphones and tablets sold in California. Kill switches -- when enabled -- render stolen devices "bricked", thus making purloined phones useless for resale by would-be thieves.

Introduced as a response to ever-increasing reports of smartphone thefts, blogger opinions on the bill are divided. Some view it as a much-needed phone theft prevention cure; others see it in terms of slippery-slope-spooky-action-from-a-distance. Carriers -- not surprisingly -- are unanimous with loathing.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers are either golden, or bearish about kill switches.

Filling in for our humble blogwatcher Richi Jennings, is a humbler Stephen Glasskeys.


Frustrated, Martyn Williams can't run apps, or make calls:

Politicians...in California [introduced] a bill...that requires all smartphones and tablet PCs sold in the state be equipped with a digital "kill-switch" that would make the devices useless if stolen.


The bill is a response to a rise in thefts of portable electronics devices...being seen across the state.


The proposed bill...doesn't specify the kill-switch technology. Carriers or phone makers will be able to design their own system...but once activated it should prevent phone calls, Internet access and the ability to run apps.  MORE


What's good for Philip Michaels, is good for you:

A new proposal for a mandatory kill-switch on mobile devices in California figures to have ramifications felt far beyond [California borders] should it come to pass.


The bill, introduced Friday by State Sen. Mark Leno...would require any mobile device sold in the state [to have a] kill-switch that would render the device useless if...nabbed by a thief.


Well, good for California, then. But what’s it matter to you, if you happen to live in one of the 49 other states in this country?


By virtue of its size—and the hefty fine for phone makers that’s included in Leno's proposed law—California has enough pull to make kill switches a standard feature on mobile devices.   MORE


Straight from the Honorable horse's mouth:

"With robberies of smartphones reaching an all-time high, California cannot continue to stand by when a solution to the problem is readily available," said Sen. Leno, D-San Francisco. "Today we are officially stepping in and requiring the cell phone industry to take the necessary steps to curb violent smartphone thefts and protect the safety of...consumers [that] support their businesses."  MORE


But Shaun Nichols objects by throwing bricks:

[The new bill] is not the first attempt by lawmakers to mandate killswitch technologies. Last year, officials lobbied for the implementation of remote wipe and brick tools as default, but found that in many cases the vendors themselves objected.


Leno...acknowledged the incentive for vendors to oppose the measure. Under the proposed...law, consumers would be given the option to disable the killswitch, but provisions...would seek to prevent carriers from encouraging users to do so.  MORE


Rachel Swan transforms into a crime fighting crusader:

George Gascon's long crusade against iPhone theft...[AKA] "Apple-picking"...may have finally gotten some traction.


Perhaps local politicians realized that it's useless to offer free Wi-Fi on Market Street if users have to constantly guard against rampant device theft. Gascon has long insisted that iPhone theft is a scourge in San Francisco, and that Apple has a "social responsibility" to stop it.  MORE


And a battling Richard Nieva is pushed back to the curb:

California on Friday took another step in its efforts to curb smartphone theft, but the real test will come from a likely battle with the wireless industry.


[The] issue is not just one for California. According to the Federal Communications Commission, cell phone thefts make up 30 to 40 percent of all robberies across the [US].


Now, the big challenge likely comes from push back from the phone carriers.


[Officials]...leaned heavily on research from Australia, which implemented a similar law in 2003. "If your phone could be hacked with this type of device, why doesn't everyone in Australia have their phone hacked?" asked [Oakland Mayor Jean Quan].


Quan [said] there was a tipping point when the officials decided they needed a bill. It was after Samsung...[developed] an antitheft feature, and...carriers apparently blocked the feature from being implemented. "That's when we realized we couldn't do this without legislation," she said.  MORE


Meanwhile, Thomas Claburn is motivated to drive away:

Carrier motives aside, a government-mandated anti-theft regime raises provocative questions about the limits of property ownership and privacy. In order to be effective [the] kill switch could not be...disabled by switching a device off or into airplane mode. ... [Consequently, any] person carrying an always-on device becomes always trackable.


[This] rationale...also applies to cars, the theft of which...cost $4.3 billion [in the US in 2011, according to the FBI]. Though that's far less than the $30 billion [in] US [phone thefts during] 2012, this particular form of digital restriction management (DRM) seems destined to spread as more devices get connected to the Internet.  MORE

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