Senate bill to require a kill switch in mobile phones

ios-7-activation-lock-112013Four Democratic senators on Thursday proposed a bill that would require cell phones makers to include a kill switch to deactivate a device if stolen. This piece of legislation follows closely on the heels of a similar bill that was introduced in the state of California.The federal Smartphone Theft Prevention Act would require every cell phone in the US to include a kill switch that was installed on the phone free of charge to the consumer. The technology would allow the consumer to wipe the data on their phone, render the phone inoperable to everyone except the original owner and prevent it from being activated on another network. These measures are meant to curb smartphone theft, which is on the rise in US metropolitan areas.

“It has been very troubling to see the rise in smartphone thefts across the nation, particularly since these crimes can be violent,” Senator Hirono said. “The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act would protect consumers by ensuring U.S. smartphones have an emergency ‘kill switch’ to keep thieves from operating stolen phones and accessing private information. By making this function widely available to mobile phone users, hopefully we will be able to deter thieves and prevent serious crimes.”

The cellular industry trade group CTIA has been opposed to earlier mandatory kill switch legislation, pointing out the possibility that malware could activate the switch and hold a phone hostage. In lieu of a kill switch, CTIA, along with the wireless carriers, created a database of stolen phones that is available to government and law enforcement agencies.

Apple added Activation Lock, a software kill switch, in iOS 7. This feature is turned on automatically when you set up Find My iPhone and makes it difficult for anyone use your iPhone or iPad if its been lost or stolen. Activation lock requires a person to enter the Apple ID and password of a phone before they can turn off Find My iPhone, sign out of iCloud or erase and reactivate a device. Activation Lock is optional, though, and not mandatory as this bill would require if it becomes law.

[Via Re/Code]