Now There’s a Federal Bill to Require a Smartphone “Kill Switch”
Following on the heels of a California bill, four Democratic senators on Thursday proposed a federal law that would require those that make cellular devices to equip them with the ability to be permanently deactivated if stolen.
Unlike the extremely broad California proposal, the Senate bill appears to target only devices with a cellular connection, though it is still likely to encounter stiff resistance from portions of the cellular and electronics industries, many of which oppose mandatory kill-switch laws or have significant reservations.
The bill would require smartphones to be equipped with both a kill switch and the ability for consumers to remotely wipe their personal data from a lost or stolen device.
The cellular industry trade group CTIA has put its support behind efforts to build a database of stolen phones and spoke out Thursday against the new bill.
“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,” Jot Carpenter, CTIA VP of government affairs, said in a statement. “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.”
Some, including T-Mobile, have said they are not opposed to a kill-switch requirement per se, but want to protect against unintended consequences, such as malware that allows a consumer’s phone to be hijacked and held for ransom.
Apple includes within iOS 7 an activation lock feature that offers many of the protections proposed in the bill, though Apple has made the feature optional.
The California and U.S. Senate bills build on an earlier “Secure Our Smartphones” effort by prosecutors in San Francisco, New York and London.