Lawmaker proposes smart phone "kill switch" to deter violent thefts

smartphone_PhilRoeder.jpg
Phil Roeder
Forget pick-pocketing. The street crime of today is "apple picking" -- thefts that target smartphones like Apple's iPhone.

It hit at the University of Minnesota campus, which has seen a high-profile wave of violent robberies targeting students' phones and laptops. And last week, it hit at the Mall of America, where thieves snatched recent mayoral contender Mark Andrew's iPhone off of a table, and then beat him over the head when he tried to chase after them.

Cue the lawmakers.

See Also:
- Here's what Mark Andrew looked like after he was beaten bloody by robbers at MOA [PHOTO]
- U of M crime: Students threaten to "take matters into our own hands," demand more cops


There's an idea out there that would make stolen smart phones less attractive to thieves: A remote "kill switch" to deactivate the phone, turning it into not much more than a fancy collection of parts.

Now, the kill switch could be coming to Minnesota. State Rep. Joe Atkins announced Thursday that he will introduce a bill for the upcoming legislative session requiring smartphones to have the feature.

Atkins first started considering a measure in May, around the same time he heard that nearly one in three robberies nationwide involve phones. Then, the crimes started hitting closer to home.

"If there was any reluctance about bringing legislation forward, that all went away when I saw what was going on at the U of M, and then what happened to Mark Andrew," says Atkins, who chairs the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee. "It's quite evident that what's happening in other parts of the country is on its way to Minnesota, and not just the increased thefts but the increasingly violent way in which they're taking place."

Manufacturers already have the capacity to build-in the kill switch, and Samsung has proposed adding it to phones. (Apple, which has more control over its products beginning-to-end, has already implemented a similar feature, the Activation Lock). But carriers are less excited about the idea, arguing that the technology is hackable. Advocates counter that those carriers profit from stolen phones via insurance plans and sales of replacement phones, as CNN reports.

While no state in the country has passed this kind of law, California and New York are considering similar measures.

Our own Sen. Amy Klobuchar is pushing the issue on the federal level. On Monday, she sent a letter to the five biggest cellphone carriers, asking them to address the surge in phone thefts and requesting more information on the kill switch technology.

"I believe additional action to protect wireless consumers is necessary," Klobuchar wrote. "The status quo is not acceptable."

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24 comments
Matt Schieffer
Matt Schieffer

I don't understand how people are stealing iPhones. Anyone on ios7 would have the activation lock mentioned. Without the password it's literally a brick.

Brandy Curtiss
Brandy Curtiss

How about this, shit happens! You can't control everything! Its a phone for Pete's sake!!

Brandy Curtiss
Brandy Curtiss

Just more control over us, don't they have a kill switch for cars on the horizon also??! Smh.

Mike Hess
Mike Hess

Maybe lawmakers should focus on big governance issues and stay away from reactionary bills they whip up in reaction to something bad happening. Good for a little PR but is creating a new regulation, a new law alway the right answer?

Dan Bailey
Dan Bailey

Violent gifting of a Blackberry, maybe.

ben42dover
ben42dover

No, don't "cue the lawmakers" because we already have pleanty of laws THAT ARE NOT BEING ENFORCED"!!

How about CRACKING DOWN ON CRIME, instead of slapping crooks on the wrist.

Oh yeah and conceal and carry helps too.....

tanstaafl707
tanstaafl707

You don't need a NEW LAW to fix everything you can think of, people (AND JOE!). Just contact Apple and tell them you'd like a way to do this, yourself. 

You KNOW what will happen if there is a law, right? The NSA will soon have a "back door" to the kill switch, to use at will.


Quit asking for the government to be your mama. 

DavidFoureyes
DavidFoureyes topcommenter

"Lawmakers propose not figuring out how Find My iPhone's Activation Lock works"


"But carriers are less excited about the idea, arguing that the technology is hackable."


Everything is fucking hackable. Activation Lock remains unhacked at the moment and that statement, though not a quote, belies a willful ignorance common in those that don't want to be bothered to figure out that $650, very-stealable, fashion accessory they keep out on tables.


Dave Salmonson
Dave Salmonson

So a button on the phone that will kill a violent attacker? Sounds great to me, but we will need background checks to carry the phones.

Jason Chapman
Jason Chapman

Yes I think so the phones should have an button to shut your phone off during driving time so people don't have the urge to text and drive

Greg B. Carlstrom
Greg B. Carlstrom

Violent thefts of the above pictured blackberry? I don't think so...

TC4L
TC4L

My Lookout app on the phone has done this for years.  If a password is entered incorrectly 5 times, a picture is taken.  Also, you can wipe the phone via remote. You can also track it's location with another phone or pc browser.  It's also nice because it sends what's called a Flare when the battery is about to die.  In case you lose it after it dies you know its last location.  Plus the article states it would be nothing more than fancy parts.  Ya.  Selling those parts online would be profitable.  What would be cool is if that Lookout app allowed you to take pictures on command by remote. 

TweetsAreYours
TweetsAreYours

@TC4LWhy more of these tools aren't standard operating procedure for today's smart phones I'll never know. Why more people aren't proactive with their phone security, like you are TC4L, another great unanswered question.

MicheleBachmann
MicheleBachmann topcommenter

@PoliPosse  WHY HAS NO ONE ASKED THIS????? TRAINS OR MURDER BOATS AS THEY ARE COMMONLY KNOWN ARE THE DEVIL'S TRANSPORT!!!!!!!!   THOSE CRIMINALS GOT DEMON BABIES IN THEIR TUMMIES RIDING THE TRAIN.  NOW LET'S BE RATIONAL!    WHY DON'T WE KNOW WHAT THEY ATE THIS MORNING?   WHAT IF WE FIND TOAST AND HONEY NUT CHEERIOS CAUSED THIS CRIME?    DO YOUR JOB RUPAR!  HOW MANY MORE MUST DIE TO THE DEATH BOAT(TRAINS) MENACE!   YOU KNOW WHO LIKED TRAINS?  HITLER.   A KNOWN SOCIALIST!   SOCIALISTS LOVE TRAINS BECAUSE OF MECCA OR SOMETHING.  HANNITY EXPLAINED IT BETTER.  ANYWAY THESE HOODLUMS LOVE TRAINS.  COINDENCE OR FACT?  WE VOTE FACT!

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