Should We Be Concerned that the Federal Government Wants a Smartphone Kill Switch?

The federal government is considering requiring mobile providers to add a kill switch in every phone.

The federal government is considering requiring mobile providers to add a kill switch in every phone.

The United States government is considering passing a law that would require all smartphones to have a kill switch. Several senators said that the new law is an effort to combat cell phone theft. However, some people are worried that there are other implications.

What Are the Concerns?

Senators Amy Klobuchar, Mazie Hirono, Richard Blumenthal and Barbara Mikulski all feel that smartphones should have kill switches built into them. They feel that this is a necessary protection for customers. However, some activists have raised concerns about the proposed legislation.

Mobile Industry Concerns

 

The mobile industry feels that these lawmakers aren’t considering the implications of this law. Industry lobbyists said that an industry-wide kill switch would create make phones across the country vulnerable to hackers. Electronic terrorists could disable hundreds of thousands of devices.

The industry has raised some decent points. However, some experts have pointed out that they are biased. Mobile providers make millions by selling smartphone insurance. They may need to reduce premiums if there is less incentive for criminals to steal phones.

Citizens Have Mixed Feelings

Citizens seem to have mixed feelings about the new legislation. Some feel that it is a good idea that should have been implemented a long time ago. However, other people are worried that the government may not be entirely forthcoming about its intentions. A few commentors on Information Week and the Huffington Post are worried that the government would use these kill switches to shut down communication in times of social unrest.

Most people aren’t overly worried about the government shutting down everybody’s phones. However, they feel that it is a valid concern.

Could Cutoff Emergency Services

Lobbyists from the Wireless Association feel that the risk is more significant. They said that such a device could be used against the government as well. Terrorists could use a kill switch to disable mobile communications to law enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security, emergency service dispatchers and other public services.

Is a Kill Switch a Good Idea?

The jury is still out on whether or not mobile manufacturers should be required to put a kill switch in every cell phone. There are a number of concerns, but some countries have already created them. South Korea has passed a similar law which has been fairly effective. European countries have added similar kill switches to cars.

There are a number of valid concerns, but a federal kill switch could have some benefits as well. We may not know if it is a good idea until it is actually implemented.

Image CC by AndraSoukup

About the Author: Kalen Smith

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