Really Bad Idea: Senator Klobuchar Wants To Mandate A 'Kill Switch' In All Mobile Phones

from the could-she-please-hire-a-technologist? dept

We hadn't heard much from Senator Amy Klobuchar recently, but every time she gets anywhere near legislation involving technology, you should run screaming for the hills (or, rather, call your own Senators to tell them to block whatever awful plan she's come up with). It's amazing that one Senator can get technology so wrong. Klobuchar, famously, backed the companion bill to PIPA, called S.978 in the previous Congress, which would have made unauthorized streaming of content into a felony, putting all sorts of perfectly reasonable YouTube users at risk of possible criminal charges, and possibly jailtime. In 2012, she tried to introduce the "Cloud Computing Act of 2012" which would have modified the CFAA to apply criminal enforcement to cloud computing as well. However, legal experts described the bill as a complete disaster, with one saying that her "definition of cloud computing service is incoherent."

Her latest move is to propose a bill that would mandate a kill switch in all mobile phones that could be activated remotely. The idea, here, is that this would allow those who had their phones stolen to disable them, rendering them (sorta) useless. It seems that, as with the other bills discussed above, Senator Klobuchar introduces these with the best of intentions, but with no clue about how technology works, or the likely "unintended" consequences of such things.

First, putting such a kill switch into all phones almost guarantees that it will be misused and abused in some form -- whether by government officials looking to cut off communications (as has been done at the tower level) or by malicious hackers looking to kill a ton of phones. The kill switch is just too tempting a target. Second, the actual benefit of this is likely to be limited. Phones will still get stolen and people will figure out how to hack their way around the kill switch within hours of it existing. Third, there's simply no reason for a law here. There are numerous software products that allow individuals to effectively do this on their own if they so desire. Mandating it, and adding fines to mobile operators who don't offer such a thing seems totally unnecessary.

So, even if we assume the best, and believe that, with all of these laws, Senator Klobuchar has the best of intentions, could she please hire someone who understands basic technology before writing any more bad laws that will cause harm?
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Filed Under: amy klobuchar, kill switch, mobile phones

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  1. icon
    btrussell (profile), 29 Jan 2014 @ 2:21am


    Is your refrigerator running?

    No, I've tied it to a net so it can't.

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