Rep. Atkins says U of M robberies inspired nation's first smartphone "kill switch" bill

JoeAtkins.JPG
Rep. Joe Atkins
Last summer, Rep. Joe Atkins (D-Inver Grove Heights) was hanging out with his son at the Big 10 Restaurant in Stadium Village when, without thinking twice about it, he set his smartphone down on a table.

"My oldest son said something like, 'You trying to get us killed?'" Atkins recalls. "He had a roommate, I believe, who had been robbed at knife-point for his smartphone a week before then. It happens all the time."

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Indeed, U of M officials say smartphones are involved in nearly two-thirds of on-campus robberies. The Federal Communication Commission estimates as many as 40 percent of robberies in American cities involve smartphones.

The conversation with his son, along with a call Atkins received from U of M Police Chief Chief Greg Hestness during which Hestness told him reducing on-campus smartphone thefts is a "top priority," inspired Atkins to start working last summer on the nation's first smartphone "kill switch" bill. It was signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton yesterday.

"It's like being a ballplayer -- you do a bit of work in the offseason and it's amazing how much you can do during the actual season," Atkins says.

As a result, any smartphone sold or purchased new in Minnesota after July 1, 2015, must be equipped with technology designed to render the device inoperable in the event of theft or loss. Businesses aren't allowed to charge customers for the technology.

Atkins says "there was enormous opposition from the industry" to his bill, but very little within the Legislature until last month, when a consortium of major companies in the phone industry announced they'll voluntarily include "kill switch" technology in all phones by July 2015.  (That announcement came on the heels of Sen. Amy Klobuchar writing a stern letter to the five largest cellphone carriers that said, "I believe additional action to protect wireless consumers is necessary... The status quo is not acceptable.")

"The final vote ended up being a little more partisan because by the time we got the bill to the floor the industry had voluntarily agreed to elements in our bill, and so some, particularly on the Republican side, were like, 'We don't need to do a law anymore because we have voluntary commitment,'" Atkins says. "But my thought is, I have a 17-year-old who promises to be home by 11, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to still stay up and check."

Ultimately, Atkins says his bill is about reducing crime.

"If you're in a room of five or ten and ask how many have had a smartphone stolen, a hand will go up," he says. "It's an epidemic, and we've gotta figure out a way to address it. You take the value away from the phone because it can be disabled, you take away the incentive to steal in the first place."

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.



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44 comments
Joshua Warren
Joshua Warren

I want a cell phone not tracked by the NSA and Obama

Lindsey Clarke
Lindsey Clarke

Hanni is right. A kill switch is pretty lame though because there are plenty of things you can do and things that are offered to help locate your tech. I don't know about anyone else but when I pay hundreds of dollars for something I don't fucking flash it around or try very hard to keep it in my pocket. Also a kill switch might not work because on eBay and Craigslist there is such a listing called "for parts or not working". You can still sell it

Hanni Kenny
Hanni Kenny

I love all these straight laced people complaining that the government will have the power to turn off your phones. Your lives are all so painfully vanilla, I doubt a single one of you would/have ever done anything that would cause the government to fuck with your lame ass phones.

Keyser Söze
Keyser Söze

Minions fear the government yet give private companies any and all personal information.

Branden Petersen
Branden Petersen

It was stripped out in conference committee... ya know.. cuz alllowing unchecked 3rd party control of your device is really important. So dumb.

Noel Barrick
Noel Barrick

I believe Branden Petersen threw in/attempted to throw in an amendment that the kill switch couldn't be used without the cell phone owners permission. I'm not sure if it passed though.

stephansonprop
stephansonprop

Making ANOTHER new law always makes thing better, as a matter of fact they should make it illegal to be unemployed than everyone would have a job.

Lisa R. Gibbs
Lisa R. Gibbs

The "Find My iPhone" app is Apple's "kill switch" app with an optional setting to erase data after X number of failed unlock attempts. Does this bill lean more to the conservative side, only requiring that phone manufactures make this feature available, or the more liberal side, forcing customers to use it?

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

Stupid, stupid people.

Feargal Ledwidge
Feargal Ledwidge

A kill switch is an easy way for the government to turn your phone off.

John Moore
John Moore

The technology is already part of every phone. There is a hardware id in every phone and all the carriers have to do is blacklist it. The only reason they don't is because they don't want to get involved in legal matters. The legislation will only force the carriers to give consumers discretion. The potential for abuse by carriers or law enforcement has not changed.

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

'Minnesota's law also criminalizes buying used phones for cash'

Chris Hiatt
Chris Hiatt

No. What I'd prefer is that people excercise some personal responsibility and encrypt their shit if they're so damn concerned about it.

Jean Claude Cau
Jean Claude Cau

I didn't know that Dinkytown was the Wild Wild West.

Mario I. Garcia
Mario I. Garcia

This whole bill is a response to fear mongering. It's an attempt to reduce theft of smartphones by reducing their value, but I'm not really seeing a lasting effect on that.

Rick Miller
Rick Miller

I think there should be TV's that can never be shut off. That way people can get updated about bad weather or criminals in their area more effectively. And in the interest of security, the police should be able to kill the phones -too much misinformation already being spread via smartphones on the internet I will be reading 1984 while I await your comments

Dave Eckblad
Dave Eckblad

Yes, just like how they turn off our TVs and Radios during elections and riots... Ya don't need to fear monger.

Forrest Cahoon
Forrest Cahoon

WHO gets to remotely render phones inoperable? Law enforcement? That won't do much for theft, but it will allow them to stop those pesky citizens from making videos of them doing incredibly illegal things. Oh, your phone just happened to stop working while that cop was beating the shit out of that homeless person? What a coincidence!!!!

Andrew Berg
Andrew Berg

I would prefer the tools to just kill the people trying to rob me. That's a more effective kill switch.

Dave Eckblad
Dave Eckblad

Why do you ask us these questions? You never read any of the comments or respond. Your social media dept is useless.

Dave Eckblad
Dave Eckblad

... This isn't worth waxing conspiracy over, go outside and get some fresh air.

Daniel Bolmgren
Daniel Bolmgren

No, its too much of a slippery slope in terms of population control. Who has the kill switch? And who is to say when it is a good or bad idea. It's being sold to us under the guise of safety but do not be fooled by their sophistry.

Nathan David Teegarden
Nathan David Teegarden

Overall a good idea, but you just know that eventually some police department will use it to prevent protest organizers from using their phones.

WilhelmDavis
WilhelmDavis

@atrupar Imagine a guy like Assad having the ability to do this, or Mubarak. Cell phones were an important tool in the Arab Spring & Occupy

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

Only really stupid sheep think that we are in imminent danger because of climate change.

vufanatic
vufanatic

@Drewey says the idiot who still thinks that Obamacare lowers health care costs and out-of-pocket expenses. And the idiot who was brainwashed into believing that if you like your plan and doctor, you can keep your plan and doctor. 

Drewey
Drewey topcommenter

It does and you could have if you didn't have a bullshit plan.

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