One of the newest rumors circulating the nation regarding mobile devices is the new law, the kill switch for mobile phones. Phone Doctors has been getting your questions about the creation of a software-initiated kill switch. It has people on both sides of the law concerned for its effectiveness; much like gun control, there are proponents eagerly for it and those against it.
Presently, if your phone is stolen, you can report it to your provider – who places it on an IMEI blacklist. The effect of this is to prevent use of the device, no matter who picks it up – some of the providers can clear a phone from the blacklist, but only they can do so. (This is different from unlocking, in where you prepare a phone to use a signal from another carrier.)
The largest corporation-based opponents to the law were where it started in California – and interest in it has been spreading since. Both Microsoft and Apple were unhappy with the concept, citing security concerns. It’s not so much that it protects the phone – but how easily it could be mimicked, or equally undone by a savvy enough miscreant.
Think of it like having your dog out in the park with a leash on, except you aren’t holding it. Anyone who was fast enough could grab the leash and begin to control your pet. This metaphor is close to the concern that the two cell/media giants had in mind. Some of the other carriers have spoken out, but their concerns were not in the spotlight as much.
If the law passes nationwide, providers will be required to install this kill switch on all created devices – and it may possibly go retroactive, depending on whether it is included as part of an OS update.
The advantage that a kill switch provides is that it is a “soft” solution. Should you regain your phone, you can have the kill switch deactivated, and you would have your device again instead of going through the process of setting up a new one. Unfortunately, part of the process for this will need to be uncommon knowledge and lightly restricted, meaning that it may also fall into the wrong hands.
While there are reasons for knowing both sides of the concerns for the upcoming law, it is important to know what you are getting into. And not much unlike the mobile device industry, this legal discussion is growing and changing rapidly every week.
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