I live in Minnesota, the state partially made famous for its oddball political atmosphere. This state is both the source of some pretty decent legislation (the legislation regulating our ability to carry a firearm is surprisingly good) and some absolutely atrocious legislation. This is an example of the latter:
A first-in-the nation measure would require smartphone manufacturers to install mandatory “kill switch” technology to deter thefts became law with Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature Wednesday.
“This is a very important step forward for protecting young people and protecting people of all ages,” Dayton said.
The law mandates that smartphone manufacturers equip their phones with the technology by July 1, 2015. The “kill switch” enables a smartphone owner to remotely disable a smartphone or tablet if it is lost or stolen, rendering the devices useless.
I carry an iPhone, which has the ability to be remotely disabled via my provisioning server. For me it’s a desired feature because I would like to render the device unusable should somebody steal it and, due to the fact that I have the feature tied to my provisioning server, the feature is entirely within my control. With that said, I do not want the inclusion of such a capability to be mandatory. There are a lot of legitimate reasons why an individual wouldn’t want such a capability.
First and foremost is that the capability will most commonly be in the hands of the phone manufacturer. Having somebody’s finger on your phone’s kill switch is generally a bad idea. Second if the ability to remotely kill a device exists in any form it’s possible that an unauthorized third-party will find a way to gain access to that feature. Political dissidents performing a protest probably don’t want devices that can be remotely disabled since there is always the possibility that the state they’re protesting against will pressure the manufacturer into disabling the dissidents’ devices.
And because this is a Minnesota bill it had to include an extra heap of stupidity:
The law also prohibits retailers from paying cash for used phones, rather than electronic transfer or check.
In other words if you sell your phone the government wants to know about it. This is just another step in the state’s desire to track all financial transactions. Like every previous step this one is being marketed as a method of help the people. But the first part of this legislation, the mandatory kill switch, renders the second part irrelevant because no retailer is going to buy a useless phone. So this part is entirely unnecessary in regards to protecting people against cell phone thefts.