What the Smartphone Kill Switch Means for Consumers

Published On August 20, 2014 | Mobile

As much as we try to not be materialistic, the sinking feeling you get from losing a $600 iPhone is inevitable. The smartphone “kill switch” bill proposes a standardized installation of antitheft software in all cell phones – this would give the ability for users to lock a phone remotely when stolen, making it inoperable, thus discouraging theft in this mobile realm.

Ideally, passing the bill would produce countless positive results, however, good intention does not always equal intended execution. There are possible negative effects a universal kill switch poses that are worth considering.

The Pros

Every day in the U.S. an estimated one in three crimes involve smartphones and “Apple picking,” referring to when a person snatches an iPhone out of someone’s hands in public and runs off. With the kill switch bill passing, fear of having your phone lifted would dissolve, easing the minds of many affected in metropolitan areas.

Another benefit is that cost-wise, if the law is implemented, it is free for all users. Furthermore, a collective 3.4 billion dollars could be saved as Americans spend $1.1 billion replacing stolen phones annually and an additional $2.3 billion could be cut down from users moving to more basic insurance plans that need not cover theft anymore.

Similar software like “Find My iPhone” currently exists already but only goes so far – thieves know to turn off a phone right away to stop user tracking and have also figured out how to wipe personal data in order to break the link to locator services. The bill would help solve this concern by requiring the kill switch be resistant to any operating system reinstallation.

The Cons

All fingers point to yes on the kill switch bill, but for sake of objectivity, there are a handful of cons that could arise. Arguments include the threat of hacking. For example, a hacker could tap into the system and disable mass groups of cell phone users at a time. A larger issue could additionally lie in the actual application of the kill switch.

A state-by-state technology mandate would go against the overarching goal to create uniformity and a united front to deter robbers. If each state passed separate bills that were not ultimately the same, it would make successful fruition tough. The first few years are bound to be transitional and only time will really tell if all states can jump on board to meet the objective of the bigger concept envisioned by a kill switch implementation.

The Current Status of the Bill and the Future Ahead  

The kill switch bill has already been forged by a few states. Minnesota became the first state to pass the bill and California Legislature passed the bill earlier this month. Moreover, New York has been making moves as well and at the Federal level, legislation has been introduced and will predictably rev up momentum upon the pioneer successes.

These initial efforts will likely result in a domino effect of other states following suit and if all goes as intentions planned, then the kill switch could mean “apple-picking” days would only be applicable to the real fruit.

– By Tim Alan

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