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California is expected to enforce adoption of smartphone killswitch

by Mark Tyson on 7 February 2014, 11:43

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We have heard about various politicians pushing anti-theft solutions for smartphones before. However a new legal move by the state of California could really push adoption of smartphone and tablet 'kill switches'. New legislation is expected to be successfully introduced in the state at a hearing on Friday that will require a mechanism where stolen phones and tabs are to be able to be rendered useless.

"With robberies of smartphones reaching an all-time high, California cannot continue to stand by when a solution to the problem is readily available," Democrat State Senator Mark Leno of California, said in a statement. "Today we are officially stepping in and requiring the cellphone industry to take the necessary steps to curb violent smartphone thefts and protect the safety of the very consumers they rely upon to support their businesses."

Senator Mark Leno

This bill adoption in California should have a 'domino effect' across the world as California is such a big hitter in the US economy and it isn't likely that smartphone and tablet makers will design special California editions of all their wares. Also the 'stick' the state will wield to non-conforming companies sounds very spiky and painful; "Companies that sold phones without kill switches would be subject to fines of up to $2,500 for each device sold," reports the New York Times.

Smartphone theft is a very big problem as these devices are compact and easily carried but valuable for both the device and the data they might contain. A lost/stolen smartphone also might also present a very big first-world problem to the 'victim' as it often contains so much personal information and media like photos and messages etc.

US trade group CITA has previously opposed 'kill switch' legislation saying that it could cause risks to legitimate customers and government services where hackers destroy the communication devices remotely. It said last year that "a kill switch isn’t the answer," and wants law enforcement and networks to work using a database for deactivating stolen phones. However as readers will probably know many stolen phones are turned off straight away and sent abroad out of reach of such blacklists.

The most recent numbers I could find for mobile phone loss/thefts are as follows: 10,000 per month in London, and 4.9 million per month for the whole of the USA (but another source said 133,000 per month in the USA during 2012).



HEXUS Forums :: 24 Comments

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Interesting.

I will watch to see how this turns out.
The most recent numbers I could find for mobile phone loss/thefts are as follows: 10,000 per month in London, and 4.9 million per month for the whole of the USA (but another source said 133,000 per month in the USA during 2012).

Wow! They're shocking numbers.

I recently misplaced my phone and was very glad that I'd got remote wipe capability (actually three - Google's one, Samsung's one, and one from AVG that I installed). Thankfully I was also able to use remote locate and remote ring to find my phone, but it was a worrying time. So I can see where the Californian folks are coming from on this initiative.
crossy
Wow! They're shocking numbers.

I recently misplaced my phone and was very glad that I'd got remote wipe capability (actually three - Google's one, Samsung's one, and one from AVG that I installed). Thankfully I was also able to use remote locate and remote ring to find my phone, but it was a worrying time. So I can see where the Californian folks are coming from on this initiative.
I get the impression that the Californian move is primarily about violent phone robberies, as it is about data protection. Though, clearly, that's also a real concern, and one reason (but by no means the only one) why I've steered clear of smartphones.

I don't want by data being stolen/abused by criminals, but I also don't want it being stolen/abused by corporates because of overly-wide permissions granting app developers huge numbers of permissions the app doesn't actually need.
Saracen
I don't want by data being stolen/abused by criminals, but I also don't want it being stolen/abused by corporates because of overly-wide permissions granting app developers huge numbers of permissions the app doesn't actually need.
Quite!

And yes, we DO mean you Mr Google!

(Pet hate of mine - that Android apps just presents you with a list of permissions and you have to either grant in full or remove the app. E.g. why the heck does Firefox need to be able to record voice and video?)
crossy
...

And yes, we DO mean you Mr Google!

....
Absolutely. Not only them, of course, by a very large margin, but Google first and foremost.