In a rather strange turn of events, lawmakers across the country are now trying to put their weight behind the almost aborted kill switch solution to smartphone theft. This new push came after California lawmakers proposed making it mandatory for smartphones sold in the state of California only.
The kill switch involves remotely wiping a smartphone and rendering it useless in case of a theft. Theoretically, it will serve as a deterrent to the crime if the stolen goods can no longer be used and, therefore, can no longer be sold. Unlike other solutions, like Google’s Android Device Manager, that lets you also remotely wipe personal data from a stolen device, the kill switch, as the name implies, has an image of finality.
Although the proposal has initially failed due to the insistence of major carriers in the US, the state of California proposed a law that will require manufacturers and carriers to include a kill switch in devices sold in the state. If approved, it will most likely force manufacturers to include the feature in all devices regardless. Taking a cue from this rather bold move, senators led by Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are proposing the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act that will make such a law have federal reach.
It will, of course, face tough opposition and lobbying from CTIA-The Wireless Association, the kill switch’s biggest opponent. The CTIA believes that the kill switch is open to hacking and privacy issues and suggests a more subdued solution, that of providing a nationwide database of stolen devices. However, that solution also has its geographical and jurisdictive limits. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has also accused the CTIA, particularly US carriers, of being biased by the profits they will gain by keeping things the way they are.