Smartphone Kill Switch Debate Generates More Heat Than Light
NEWS ANALYSIS: Wireless companies are doing less than they should to curb mobile phone theft, but political grandstanding by state and district attorneys isn't helping much either.The good news is that industry and public officials are paying attention to the serious problem of smartphone thefts. It's no exaggeration to say that people are getting injured and killed while smartphone makers and politicians dither about what can actually be done about it. The Attorney General of New York Eric Schneiderman and the San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon have been making headlines as they pound their respective tables demanding a "kill switch" for smartphones as part of Secure our Smartphones initiative. The wireless carriers, meanwhile, are also posturing, saying that kill switches themselves pose a security risk that could open the door to malicious use and they aren't really necessary anyway. The carriers have sought the relative safety of the CTIA Wireless Association trade group, which is pressing for a national serial number database that would keep people from activating stolen phones. The attorneys general including Schneiderman are hailing the suggestion by Samsung that they include a "LoJack" software package, saying that it's the ultimate solution. Meanwhile, Gascon is demonizing the carriers for not agreeing with him and immediately acceding to his call for action.
The problem is that everyone involved is wrong in some way. The lawyers, apparently suffering from a weak grasp of the realities of mobile device use, are suggesting fixes that are impractical.