Is This a Good Idea?
The bureaucrats in our country and others are now calling, in their usual shrill fashion, for smartphones and tablets to have a so-called “Kill Switch,” enabled by default, in all new smartphones and tablets. It looks like this will happen by 2015. The idea is that a phone or tablet could be remotely disabled in the event of theft or loss.
The rationale goes something like this: “A large percentage of violent crimes now involve smartphone theft. If the thief knew he couldn’t use or sell the phone because it had been “bricked” (rendered inoperable) by the owner or carrier, he wouldn’t steal the phone.”
Anybody here buy that??
Given the fact that a lot of thieves are stupid scum, do you really think they would stop stealing phones like magic? Or that the (slightly) smarter ones among them would not find workarounds for the kill switch? Or just sell the parts?
Given the proliferation of recent hack attacks, does anybody think the Kill-Switch system would be immune to outside interference? I don’t.
Imagine waking up one morning to find out that not only was your phone inoperative, making your data inaccessible, but every phone on your carrier, or in your town, was suffering the same fate. Did you have a backup? Yes? Good for you. But what about all those other people that never thought of that? What about police and other authorities that depend on their phones? This could result in something far worse than mere theft.
The proponents of this Big-Brother system think that the carriers are against it because they would lose revenue from selling replacement phones and phone insurance. They won’t, for two reasons: First, people will still lose and break their own phones. Second, a stupid thief, when he finds out the phone is useless, will undoubtedly smash it or otherwise destroy it, and the owner will still need a new phone.
Kill switches can be a good idea, considering the amount of personal data that folks now keep on their phones. But such a thing should always be voluntary, reversible, and only under the control of the owner of the device. There should also be competition among the makers of such programs, so you’re not stuck with whatever the phone manufacturer decides you need, and won’t let you turn off! I want to be in command of my own affairs, and I will always resist this kind of Nanny-State BS.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!