Back in February California State Senator Mark Leno proposed a smartphone kill switch in conjunction with multiple law enforcement agencies and the smartphone carriers. While they claimed that this bill would reduce smartphone theft and crimes that result from attempted smartphone theft, it really would give absolute power into the hands of the carriers in ways that would overstep consumers’ rights. Sure, smartphone theft is an increasing form of theft, but the amount of smartphones out there relative to the amount of smartphone thefts is minuscule.
But according to CNET, the bill died in the California State Senate because it would be ‘bad for business’ and not because it would give carriers (and possibly the government or hackers) the ability to remotely kill your smartphone without your consent. And considering the amount of laws that the NSA and CIA have overstepped it would not seem outrageous to expect them to ‘kill’ someone’s smartphone and incapacitate their ability to communicate with the outside world. The problem with creating a kill switch is that it doesn’t really solve the problem of theft, in fact, it probably w0n’t change anything in terms of smartphone theft when in reality making stolen phones inactive on networks when reported stolen should be more than enough to discourage smartphone theft. All this would require would be to enable carriers to share IMEI numbers and activations with eachother and to not allow devices to connect to the network when reported stolen, rather than a ‘kill switch’.
However, Mark Leno states that he’s not done with this bill as he will be trying to vote on the bill again next week since he lost the vote in a 19 to 17 vote with one person abstaining, meaning that he only needs to get 2 more votes in favor as the California State Senate requires 21 votes in favor to move the bill forward. But the carriers were against this bill because it would leave consumers vulnerable to hackers who could remotely wipe a phone’s data. But government officials stated that the industry’s opposition had more to do with their bottom line, specifically from losing business from their insurance partners (Asurion).