Wireless Kill Switch Heads to Congress - The UpStream

Wireless Kill Switch Heads to Congress

posted Saturday Feb 15, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Wireless Kill Switch Heads to Congress

Last week, a bill creating a state-wide wireless kill switch was proposed in California. The pitched reasoning for the capability is to terminate a phone that has been reported as lost or stolen. The state believes that, if a stolen phone can be made useless, many or all mobile thefts would be eliminated.

The problem with this theory is that the carriers, the CDMA carriers at least, already have this capability. Educated consumers know to call Verizon or Sprint before purchasing a used phone and verify that the ESN is clean. This has not slowed down the theft of Sprint or Verizon handsets, however.

On the other hand, GSM technology is not based on the device at all. In fact, many GSM carriers do not often have an accurate record of what device is on your account. This is because of SIM cards, which are the only technology that is important to the carrier. This technological difference is why GSM carriers often do not have the ability to block a handset: they do not know it exists.

So, with the track record of an existing "kill switch" not working for some carriers, and a massive technological hurdle to overcome preventing its implementation on others, why would California be trying to mandate it? Let's take a look at the national response to the proposed bill for a possible answer

Upon hearing about the state's bill, a similar bill began its process on the national level. This is the second time a kill switch has been proposed on the national stage, with the first attempt being defeated rather quickly, mostly because of the facts raised above, presented by the carriers.

With Congress knowing about the ineffective nature of the kill switch as well as the difficulty of implementing it in some cases, why are they, again, trying to mandate it? Many believe that it is a way for the government to get more involved in our lives. With the ability for the federal government to kill a phone remotely, they would have the ability to interfere with things like protest planning or documentation, or anything that they consider to be harmful to their narrative.

While this might sound a little conspiracy theorist, if you consider the history of governments vying for power, there are a few rights that are infringed early, privacy (NSA), healthcare (Obamacare) and free speech and the right to assemble (this bill), it does make those conspiracy theories sound a little more credible.

Do you believe that this bill, titled the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act, is truly intended to prevent thefts, or is this a power grab? Sound off in the comments.

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