New California Law Requires Remote Kill Switch for All Smartphones

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New California Law Requires Remote Kill Switch for All Smartphones

Google Project Ara Smartphone 310x

Kill switch allows users to remotely lock, wipe their phones, but cops can use it, too.

Starting in July 2015, any smartphone sold in California will have to have a user-accessible remote kill switch built into the software.

Signed into law yesterday, Senate Bill No. 962 (SB 962) ensures that any smartphone owner will be able to remotely lock, and then wipe (if necessary) his or her smartphone. The bill is an attempt to curb smartphone theft, which California State Senator, and bill sponsor Mark Leno calls a violence-fueling "crime of convenience."

The kill switch will be turned on by default with new smartphones, but the feature can be turned off by the user. Furthermore, the switch must be able to survive attempts to re-install the phone's operating system.

California's massive consumer footprint, and the fact that the two biggest smartphone players (Apple and Google) are headquartered there means this policy will likely extend to all smartphones sold in the United States, at the very least.

There is one potential downside to the new kill switch policy: Law enforcement involvement. Cops and other authorities could use the kill switch's lock feature on a widespread scale during protests, riots, or other major public events, rendering smartphones in the crowd useless. While a court order will be necessary in most cases, such an order would not be required in the event(s) of "immediate danger of death or great bodily injury."

Google already offers the robust Android Device Manager. Once your register your phone with ADM, you can use any computer to log into the attached Google account, and then call, lock, wipe, or track your phone from there. It works incredibly well, even if GPS is turned off on your phone -- take it from a Tech Editor who used ADM to successfully recover his HTC One M8 from a cab just last week!

Apple's iOS offers a similar service, called Find My iPhone, which is tied to your iCloud account.

Source: NetworkWorld

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I have a feeling that this type of power can be easily abused or misused by both cops and hackers.

GAunderrated:
I have a feeling that this type of power can be easily abused or misused by both cops and hackers.

I'd say that's more than a feeling.

We already know that the NSA can't be trusted, and plenty of police departments do things of questionable legality already. Let's make it even easier for them to fuck with people now. Some person just filmed a cop beating someone half to death? Arrest them until you can wipe their phone.

This was sounding good up until mention of the law enforcement part. What if someone, who would be otherwise went to an event that turned into a big police snafu, and they wanted to call a family member or friend to pick them up as soon as possible or at least warn them that there in serious trouble? Maybe they should have just made this a requirement on convicted felon's phone in case the cops are prepping for a SWAT raid. (Which they'd have to activate just before storming the location, since that would tip off suspects, who would switch to another form of communication, like older phones or encrypted radios. That's another thing; serious criminals will just find a way to bypass this.) I remember one of the reason cells are not allowed in most school districts is, in case of a lockdown to find a dangerous person, parents won't flock to the schools to get there kids, causing a real clusterfuck. But, in those cases it's a few officers trying to find one nutjob(who maybe not exist or managed to rethink his options before being caught, in most of the ones in was stuck in) who has a high probability of danger to everyone on campus.

I really, really hope this law is challenged and repealed or amended, somehow. While I can see police officers being saved in rare instances by it, I can also see it being misused by bent police to cover up racial profiling, brutality, and a hodgepodge of other nasty things some offices have done in the past. The NSA checking everyone's facebook messages is one thing, but an individual government employee (or more!) in cahoots to cover up there own crimes is what has me nervous about the world's future.

I wounder if there are any loopholes about out of state phones? Because, if I lived in Cali, I'd be willing to drive 5 hours out to a neighbor state to buy my phone. hat might set off NSA flags, but the can listen to my sex talk with my GF all they want. If I wanted to live in a totalitarian state with complete government control of technology, I'd move to North Korea or one of those Middle Eastern states that love blocking all "Western Zionist Evils" while lifted their leaders to near divinity. Maybe I'd move to China first to ease into the feeling of oppression. /rant

This is dumb for the same reason Nintendo bricking your 3DS is dumb. It could screw up everything for no reason. Ergo, NO.

If I buy a mobile phone, I expect that the device I purchase will thereafter be mine in all ways. That's how it works if I buy a car or a pair of jeans, for example. It seems to me that there exist no other possessions of mine that are subject to remote control by the state. (That is, I mean, the classical Western liberal idea of the state, not the State of California---which is theoretically one instance of the liberal state, but I digress.) Imagine if the state had remote control over your new pair of jeans: the Ministry of Silly Walks could be a real thing.

Furthermore, a mobile phone is a communications device. The state has even fewer powers with respect to restraint of communication than with respect to ownership. For example, it can demand that I become licensed to drive before I can actually use a car, but it can't tell me that I need certification to publish my ideas or just to talk with my friends---and it can't legally stop me from talking unless it has reasonable cause to believe before the event both that I have intent to commit some crime and that by my talking that crime shall be committed.

This law, in a normal Western liberal state, should be struck down by the judiciary as a bad law. I hope that Californians can influence their legislaturalists and jurists to make that happen.

Yeah, this has nothing to do with phone theft and everything to do with preventing people posting videos of cops beating the shit out of people on Youtube.

Oh no, smashed a guy on the back of the head for no good reason in broad daylight in front of a crowd of people? No problem, sprint back to the squad car and hit 'the button,'

#BOOMF!#

No evidence, no problem, wire tapping laws are on 'your side,' anyway...

It always disappoints me how, when faced with a problem, people look for ways to remove the symptoms of the problem rather than the cause. Putting more emphasis on the relationship between normal people and law enforcement would cause a lot fewer headaches than dreaming up ways to prevent normal people communicating about law enforcement.

I fully support this. Do you have any idea how long it takes to have your provider lock your phone? From my experience with Verizon it takes about 5 business days. They still billed me for the calls from it after declaring it stolen. If this makes the locking process easier for me then yes I fully support this.

Great, the one thing that the public has to gather evidence of police brutality and abuse of power will be taken away by the cops themselves. Police state 101.

Lawmakers attacking the symptoms instead of the cause? How very unique and creative?

In other words: No, no no nooononononoono.

We are already heading down a global totalitarian path of "nothing to hide? nothing to worry!".
I just wish they couldn't be so obvious about it. Makes me think it too far gone already.
Dystopian future, here we come.

On the bright side though, I played with my two kittens as usual today.

More than illegal recording, I'm more worried about the control this will give over organized protests.

Nowadays, I'd say 95+% of protests are organized through the use of social media. It's become absolutely essential.

Imagine how convenient and easy it would be to ruin/disorganize protests by just shutting it off. There's a reason social media is censored and banned in totalitarian countries.

This is George Orwell's '1984' all over again it seems. You know, Big Brother is watching you.

So cops can telebrick your smartphone.
That sounds nice.

I wouldn't be surprised if rioters all had their phones jailbroken.
That'll probably allow them to turn the kill switch off even for law enforcement but this is just speculation on my part.

Did no one notice the "Can Be Turned Off By The User" part?

No?

Just me? ;____;

Keoul:
I wouldn't be surprised if rioters all had their phones jailbroken.
That'll probably allow them to turn the kill switch off even for law enforcement but this is just speculation on my part.

I'd say give it 3 days and the Kill Switch things will have an unofficial patch that either stops them from working or removes them. Never underestimate how much people dislike the idea of giving the police this kind of power.

Anyway it's not just abuse guys think of how incompetent our governments are. Imagine having your smartphone bricked by a cop who just entered a number wrong or something while he was activating it or someone with a bone to pick using this to settle a score.

vallorn:

Keoul:
I wouldn't be surprised if rioters all had their phones jailbroken.
That'll probably allow them to turn the kill switch off even for law enforcement but this is just speculation on my part.

I'd say give it 3 days and the Kill Switch things will have an unofficial patch that either stops them from working or removes them. Never underestimate how much people dislike the idea of giving the police this kind of power.

Anyway it's not just abuse guys think of how incompetent our governments are. Imagine having your smartphone bricked by a cop who just entered a number wrong or something while he was activating it or someone with a bone to pick using this to settle a score.

There's still a problem though. Even should that happen, the phones can still be tracked through GPS. So what would likely happen is that they would hit "the switch" and then start tracking down still active signals and arresting people for breaking the law that requires the function they are circumventing. Basically, patching the problem out would just be painting yourself as a target.

Good. Smartphones are absolutely stupid and this might bring out the natural selection

lacktheknack:
Did no one notice the "Can Be Turned Off By The User" part?

No?

Just me? ;____;

I'm not sure if that applies to the cop's ability to trigger it. It kind of undermines the entire point of having the cop's Red Button system in place if people can work around it, unless it's to silence the phones of people who would keep it on to protect it from theft like people at a gathering or in a crowded place.

Tho whole system just stinks.

vallorn:

lacktheknack:
Did no one notice the "Can Be Turned Off By The User" part?

No?

Just me? ;____;

I'm not sure if that applies to the cop's ability to trigger it. It kind of undermines the entire point of having the cop's Red Button system in place if people can work around it, unless it's to silence the phones of people who would keep it on to protect it from theft like people at a gathering or in a crowded place.

Tho whole system just stinks.

How the hell do you think they do that?

Point a radar gun and press the "Murder All Phones" button? No.

You can only kill-switch a phone if you have access to the cell-phone number. The whole "lol they can kill the phones of an entire protest" nonsense falls apart if you actually think about the logistics of the thing for a moment.

But no. We'd all rather freak out about it right now, because who doesn't like freaking out? (Other than me, apparently?)

lacktheknack:

vallorn:

lacktheknack:
Did no one notice the "Can Be Turned Off By The User" part?

No?

Just me? ;____;

I'm not sure if that applies to the cop's ability to trigger it. It kind of undermines the entire point of having the cop's Red Button system in place if people can work around it, unless it's to silence the phones of people who would keep it on to protect it from theft like people at a gathering or in a crowded place.

Tho whole system just stinks.

How the hell do you think they do that?

Point a radar gun and press the "Murder All Phones" button? No.

You can only kill-switch a phone if you have access to the cell-phone number. The whole "lol they can kill the phones of an entire protest" nonsense falls apart if you actually think about the logistics of the thing for a moment.

But no. We'd all rather freak out about it right now, because who doesn't like freaking out? (Other than me, apparently?)

Or you know, thew police could have the providers send out the kill switch within certain cell tower radius / postcodes / gps position.

Elijin:

lacktheknack:

vallorn:
I'm not sure if that applies to the cop's ability to trigger it. It kind of undermines the entire point of having the cop's Red Button system in place if people can work around it, unless it's to silence the phones of people who would keep it on to protect it from theft like people at a gathering or in a crowded place.

Tho whole system just stinks.

How the hell do you think they do that?

Point a radar gun and press the "Murder All Phones" button? No.

You can only kill-switch a phone if you have access to the cell-phone number. The whole "lol they can kill the phones of an entire protest" nonsense falls apart if you actually think about the logistics of the thing for a moment.

But no. We'd all rather freak out about it right now, because who doesn't like freaking out? (Other than me, apparently?)

Or you know, thew police could have the providers send out the kill switch within certain cell tower radius / postcodes / gps position.

And take out everyone near but not in the protest? This somehow won't make everything even worse 100% of the time?

You act like police enjoy having as many people angry at them as possible at all times.

...Actually, I fully believe you believe that.

So if I'm understanding this correctly, this means that now the cops will have a great tool to stop twitter during cases of potential rioting etc. That's cool cause well clearly the police can be trusted not to use this feature inappropriately like stopping all communications about social unrest in a given area from spreading outside that area so that their misdeeds don't draw national attention... Did I say can? I meant Can't, They can't be trusted... sorry.

Man is it sad that law enforcement has become a word that makes me cringe as soon as I hear it?

the term "Law Enforcement" might as well mean "Listen up cause this is the part where the government fucks you..."

lacktheknack:

And take out everyone near but not in the protest? This somehow won't make everything even worse 100% of the time?

You act like police enjoy having as many people angry at them as possible at all times.

...Actually, I fully believe you believe that.

Actually, being not an American, Im largely staying out of the way of the general drama. But sure, because I mentioned a reality of the situation, lets be absurd towards each other.

That said, exposure strikes me as a thing. Will people not like it when you lock down 3-4 blocks of cell phones whether they're on the street or in homes and businesses? No, of course they wont. But its easier to deal with a storm in a teacup, because only 1000 people found out about your horrible treatment of protesters, than it is to deal with a media shitstorm which is nationwide. And remember, most of the phones being locked are already upset with the cops in these examples.

Also its important to remember that while we're all thinking wiped here, a simple lock will keep tweets low, and smartphone captured video footage absent.

So yes, I do believe that in the wrong hands, in a volatile situation, some police captain somewhere will have the idea to lockdown all smartphone activity in few block radius.

Law of Unintended Consequences has me instinctive hating this.

Vivi22:

GAunderrated:
I have a feeling that this type of power can be easily abused or misused by both cops and hackers.

I'd say that's more than a feeling.

We already know that the NSA can't be trusted, and plenty of police departments do things of questionable legality already. Let's make it even easier for them to fuck with people now. Some person just filmed a cop beating someone half to death? Arrest them until you can wipe their phone.

that would be rather hard
The remote kill switch is done via an online account(the same one you pay/view your bill with) or in person at a phone store. It's not a button you can press on your phone.

So your phone is about as safe as your credit card information, for better or worse.

Kameburger:
So if I'm understanding this correctly, this means that now the cops will have a great tool to stop twitter during cases of potential rioting etc. That's cool cause well clearly the police can be trusted not to use this feature inappropriately like stopping all communications about social unrest in a given area from spreading outside that area so that their misdeeds don't draw national attention... Did I say can? I meant Can't, They can't be trusted... sorry.

Man is it sad that law enforcement has become a word that makes me cringe as soon as I hear it?

the term "Law Enforcement" might as well mean "Listen up cause this is the part where the government fucks you..."

No they do not have that power, this will not/dose not give them that power.
This is not a buttion they can press to shutoff all cellphones within a given radius.
It is something done via your cellular provider.

Elijin:

lacktheknack:

vallorn:
I'm not sure if that applies to the cop's ability to trigger it. It kind of undermines the entire point of having the cop's Red Button system in place if people can work around it, unless it's to silence the phones of people who would keep it on to protect it from theft like people at a gathering or in a crowded place.

Tho whole system just stinks.

How the hell do you think they do that?

Point a radar gun and press the "Murder All Phones" button? No.

You can only kill-switch a phone if you have access to the cell-phone number. The whole "lol they can kill the phones of an entire protest" nonsense falls apart if you actually think about the logistics of the thing for a moment.

But no. We'd all rather freak out about it right now, because who doesn't like freaking out? (Other than me, apparently?)

Or you know, thew police could have the providers send out the kill switch within certain cell tower radius / postcodes / gps position.

at which point the providers would laugh in there face.
The cell providers care about money, not cops.

lacktheknack:
You act like police enjoy having as many people angry at them as possible at all times.

It really doesn't matter what cops in general want; it only matters what their superiors want. And if they're willing to circumvent them, you can be damn sure it isn't in the direction of being nice to the rest of us- that's a culture that just doesn't reward altruism. You could say the same of any workplace, but it's just a little more starkly felt in this case.

Anyway, the bottom line is that there's not really a whole lot of credible reasons for police to have the ability to do this in the first place outside of hilarious Jack Bauer situations, so I vote they shouldn't get it to start with.

Most of these possible outcomes sound way worse than getting your phone stolen. It's like having a bomb strapped to your underwear in case your pants fall down. And then letting everybody know that it's there.

weirdee:
Most of these possible outcomes sound way worse than getting your phone stolen. It's like having a bomb strapped to your underwear in case your pants fall down. And then letting everybody know that it's there.

And why is that? Practically all modern phones already have the ability to remotely lock your phone. It's also not a quick or easy thing for police to activate either, they need to know the person's name and account/number to send the command. It's not a kill every device in certain radius button, you need to specifically target each and every device.

So, you get your annoying ex girlfriend calling you and you can just say "Give me your best shot, flatlander woman" and her phone just explodes?
Cool.

Nothing about this can possibly go wrong at all, right?

Right?

...Guys?

This is just kind of dumb. Anyone can already brick lock, scream, call, find their phone with any number of built in features or apps. Just more meddling by busybody pols.

RealRT:
So, you get your annoying ex girlfriend calling you and you can just say "Give me your best shot, flatlander woman" and her phone just explodes?
Cool.

Always enjoy a good Deus Ex reference.

OT: I know everyone is going on about law enforcement shutting down coverage of riots etc with this, but you could always use a real camera.

If cops wanted to blanket stop a protest from using mobiles why would they use the incredibly difficult task of iID'ing and getting a warrant for each of the phones and brick them instead of just shutting down the mobile towers and public wifi? The latter is quicker, eliminates burner phones, and older models as well as wifi devices. While the latter plan may well not bean easy warrent to prove, it's is sure as hell to be easier than getting a few thousand approved.

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