Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Empowering killing...

 The demand for "kill switches" on smartphones has prompted an about-face by manufacturers and carriers to offer an opt-in capability on new phones starting in 2015.
CTIA-The Wireless Association, a wireless communications trade group, said on Tuesday that smartphones manufactured after July 2015 for sale in the US will include "a baseline anti-theft tool" that is either preloaded or can be downloaded. The voluntary agreementalso stipulates that mobile carriers will support the availability and use of this tool.The anti-theft software will be capable of: remotely wiping data from the device in the event of loss or theft; rendering the smartphone inoperable to unauthorized users, except for emergency services calls and, if available, user-defined emergency phone numbers; preventing unauthorized reactivation "to the extent technologically feasible"; and restoring operability and user data if possible and desired by the authorized user. [More]

At first blush, this appears to be a reasonable step to addressing the increasingly troublesome smartphone theft problem in major cities. (Here in the farm we're wrestling with the smartphone-tilled-in problem, of course).  Some don't think this goes far enough, however.
“The wireless industry today has taken an incremental yet inadequate step to address the epidemic of smartphone theft,” Mr. Leno said in a statement. “Only weeks ago, they claimed that the approach they are taking today was infeasible and counterproductive. While I am encouraged they are moving off of that position so quickly, today’s ‘opt-in’ proposal misses the mark if the ultimate goal is to combat street crime and violent thefts involving smartphones and tablets.” [More]
But after all the anxiety of bad guys taking your phone and doing naughty things with it dies down, and adding the troubling alleged linkage of the NSA to the Heartbleed virus, I'm thinking how easy it will be for smartphones to be rendered pocket junk by the government.

Maybe this possibility already exists at the carrier level and we just aren't aware of it, but even from my distance of the libertarian fringe, easier communications shutdown can be seen as a bug, not just a feature.

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