New Federal Bill Wants All Phone Makers To Include A ‘Kill Switch’

(Credit: Re/code)

(Credit: Re/code)

Four Democratic senators have proposed a federal law that would require all smartphone manufacturers to include a mandatory “kill switch” for their devices in the event that they are stolen.

The bill would give users the ability to remote wipe their personal data from a lost or stolen device.

But not everyone agrees that it’s a good idea. In particular, cellular industry trade group CTIA Wireless Association has spoken out against the new bill.

“While Senator Klobuchar and CTIA are of like mind when it comes to wanting to prevent the theft of wireless devices, we clearly disagree on how to accomplish that goal,” Jot Carpenter, CTIA VP of government affairs, said in a statement. “Rather than impose technology mandates, a better approach would be to enact Senator Schumer’s legislation to criminalize tampering with mobile device identifiers. This would build on the industry’s efforts to create the stolen device databases, give law enforcement another tool to combat criminal behavior, and leave carriers, manufacturers, and software developers free to create new, innovative loss and theft prevention tools for consumers who want them.”

Apple already includes a much-praised Activation Lock feature as part of iOS 7, which offers a number of the protections proposed in the bill — although currently the feature is optional.

Some other companies, including T-Mobile, have said they are not opposed to the concept of a kill switch, but that they wish to protect against unintended consequences of such a feature — such as malware which allows a phone to be remotely hijacked and held for ransom.