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Second Federal 'Kill-switch' Bill Introduced Targeting Smartphone Theft

timothy posted about 7 months ago | from the there's-a-downside-to-this dept.

Cellphones 158

alphadogg writes "A second federal bill that proposes 'kill-switch' technology be made mandatory in smartphones as a means to reduce theft of the devices was introduced Monday. The kill switch would allow consumers to remotely wipe and disable a stolen smartphone and is considered by proponents to be a key tool in combating the increasing number of smartphone robberies. The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives as H.R. 4065 by Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat, as a companion to a Senate bill that was introduced Feb. 13. The two follow a similar law proposed by officials in California last month."

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"... as a means to reduce theft." (5, Insightful)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about 7 months ago | (#46397857)

Yeah, right. What they want to do is be able to shut down everyone's line of communications just in case the hoi polloi get too uppity.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (3, Interesting)

DriveDog (822962) | about 7 months ago | (#46397903)

Yeah, I wondered about that. Wouldn't this be a double-edged sword, for theft? Either discourages theft, or encourages hiding the victim's body so nobody will disable the phone?

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (4, Insightful)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about 7 months ago | (#46398003)

Yeah, I wondered about that. Wouldn't this be a double-edged sword, for theft? Either discourages theft, or encourages hiding the victim's body so nobody will disable the phone?

I'm not a robber, but if I was, I'm pretty sure that if I was going to rob someone, I'm going to take their phone regardless of whether it can be bricked or not simply to reduce the likelihood of them calling the cops. In essence, it won't prevent the theft of phones, it will merely prevent the thieves from reselling them. Why not a remote kill switch for Rolexes?

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (2, Insightful)

TheCarp (96830) | about 7 months ago | (#46398115)

I'm not a robber, but if I was, I'm pretty sure that if I was going to rob someone, I'm going to take their phone regardless of whether it can be bricked or not simply to reduce the likelihood of them calling the cops. In essence, it won't prevent the theft of phones, it will merely prevent the thieves from reselling them. Why not a remote kill switch for Rolexes?

Because everybody and their mother doesn't have rolexes? Notice nobody is taking about Rolex theft? Can you think of a single other device that can cost several hundred dollars, most people want, and everyone from little kids to 60 year old grandmothers carries around in public?

I am at a loss to come up with anything aside from cash itself that has similar properties. In fact, the main difference, aside from usage, is that if you whipped out a wad of cash equivalent to the retail cost of your smart phone, most people would advise you not to walk down the street flashing that wad in your hands.

I mean, I think you are right in one sence: Phones will still be stolen. It doesn't take away all reason, however, if all someone has is a cell phone, a kill switch would potentially decrease the value in robbing him; and robbers are back to trying to figure out who has money or other valuables.

AMBER ALERT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398303)

Won't someone PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!?!
 
Face it. This feature, too, will be implemented. Amen.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (2)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 7 months ago | (#46398345)

Can you think of a single other device that can cost several hundred dollars, most people want, and everyone from little kids to 60 year old grandmothers carries around in public?

Yes. Cars. Except they're generally worth thousands of dollars, instead of hundreds. (And though little kids generally want them, they generally don't own them.) Also, unlike watches and phones, we tend to leave these many-thousand-dollar devices laying around.

Cars are in some ways both more and less "portable" than watches or cell phones, so they pose somewhat different problems from a theft perspective. But it seems like we have developed a whole boatload of regulations and various technologies to try to prevent car theft.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 7 months ago | (#46398761)

Oh, and if you're willing to expand the term "device," we might include things like rings, necklaces, and other jewelry. Not so much little kids, but sometimes teenagers also some valuable jewelry; definitely grandmothers.

Even people without a lot of money often tend to wear wedding or engagement rings worth hundreds (often even thousands) of dollars around in public every day.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about 7 months ago | (#46398235)

Not just Rolexes, all exes.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398545)

Just take apart the phone. The iPhone 5S screen can sell for a C-note, with the other parts worth a good hefty chunk of change as well.

I'm not surprised robberies are going back up as a primary criminal act. They went down in the 1980s and 1990s because people stopped carrying cash, but now with the devices that virtually everyone carries, a meth-head can score something from anyone passing by that will give them their next fix. Welcome back to 1970s New York City.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 7 months ago | (#46399855)

I bet that in such a situation, you'd reach a point where we see an interesting market where the parts to the device sell for less than it costs to make them.

I mean think about it: Instead of stolen smartphones being exported to china, they're instead parted and sold domestically, flooding the parts market.

We could possibly solve that problem by making it illegal to part out phones that are known to be stolen. Dealers that sell parts could also be required to certify that they came from legitimate sources (and be held liable for contributing to theft if they aren't.)

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | about 7 months ago | (#46398561)

With Rolex, when you buy it the jeweler usually registers it with Rolex for you. If it is ever sent for servicing (which legitimate owners should do about every 5-7 years if they actually care about the movement of the watch), Rolex checks the registration and check to make sure that it hasn't been stolen. Pawn shops could (but many probably don't) call Rolex and ask. Other thing is -- don't forget to have the registration updated in your will or something, otherwise your children might be in for a hassle if they send it for servicing. At least, this is how the dealer explained it to me.

So, assuming the watch gets sent for servicing (most likely by whomever buys it after the thief hocks it), there is sort of a remote kill-switch for Rolex.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 7 months ago | (#46398641)

Then let me remotely detonate it. Take my phone, BOOM your pocket explodes 10 minutes later.
In fact that should be required, Solves the robbery problem overnight.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

mindcandy (1252124) | about 7 months ago | (#46399143)

True .. it's like the stupid car radios where you have to enter a code when the battery dies.
If it gets stolen, the thief realizes sometime later that it's useless, and it's still stolen.
Meanwhile, every time YOU have a dead battery or replace it, you have to dig around and find the stupid tag, or pay the dealer $100 to tell you.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

mindcandy (1252124) | about 7 months ago | (#46399175)

Why not a remote kill switch for Rolexes?
Or money ..

be careful what you ask for.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 7 months ago | (#46399335)

If they can't sell them, they might stop stealing them after a while

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

ottothecow (600101) | about 7 months ago | (#46399673)

A lot of phone thefts in big cities like NYC/Chicago go like this:

Person is on the train, engrossed in their facebook news feed (and probably have their headphones on so as to be further zoned out). Train pulls into stop and doors open. Thief rips phone out of person's hand and dashes out the closing doors. By the time the victim or anyone nearby recognizes what just happened, the doors are closed and the train is pulling away (and to an outside observer on the platform, it just looked like a guy who forgot it was his stop and dashed to get off the train). Less pro thiefs may not have the timing down, but they can probably run fast enough to still avoid getting caught.

If everyone knew that that phone would become worthless, these types of thefts would calm down. You might have a phone to play with for an hour (and if you were savvy, you might try using the linked email to break into some financial accounts), but the sketchy guy in the ice cream truck with a "cash for phones" sign isn't going to want soon-to-be bricked devices.

As an aside, if I were a robber, I am not sure if I would take the phone or not. Maybe take it and toss or break it (especially if it will be bricked remotely). The last thing I would want after robbing someone is something that is so easily tracked. My movements after the theft might be recorded and the phone might be hard to sell since they are much easier to check the history on than cash or random jewelry (and I would have to turn it on show any potential buyer that it was working).

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 7 months ago | (#46398125)

For most criminals, it is a huge leap from stealing a phone to murdering a person.
Most criminals steal either due to desperation (the really need the money, often for drugs) or convenience (the phone was was just sitting there unlocked, or at least an easily broken into).

Jumping to murder offers a new set of risks.
1. If the person knows he is going to get killed, he will most likely fight back, and chances are the thief will get hurt or killed in the process, if hurt he will end up in jail. As it was self defense.

2. Police will take notice and actually try to find the criminal. Petty theft, the cops are just there to give you an insurance report, they will not try to find your goods, if someone is murdered (especially if they are a non-gang member or unfairly not a minority).

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 7 months ago | (#46398691)

3. their chances of being killed instead go way up. there are a lot of concealed carry people out there that will empty their gun into the scumbag if they think they will be killed.

Take my wallet, but even a hint of real danger and I empty 13 9mm rounds into you as fast as I possibly can.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 7 months ago | (#46400083)

Two things:

1. Evidence is that for the most part, just showing the gun to the bad guy convinces him to go bother someone else. Note that we seldom see news stories about people emptying their pistol into a (potential or actual) robber, which suggests it doesn't happen all that often.

2. Whyever would you be using an old Browning Hi-Power (that's about the only gun I know of that carries 13 9mm rounds in a magazine), when there's a much better .40 caliber Browning Hi-Power? Much less a variety of other .40 or .45 pistols, all with 10 round magazines. Trust me, 10 .40 or .45 is way better than 13 9mm.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46399637)

The murder rate is already going up:

1: The punishments for crimes are so high that a homicide gets less time than some assaults, especially with the firearms laws, and mandatory minimum sentences.

2: In prison, a murderer is respected. An armed robber is at best accepted... and has to "earn their bones" in order to keep their pillow on their bed. So if one goes for 20-life, might as well go for the crime that allows for being first in chow and the canteen.

3: There is a major push for gun control, which makes it safer for violent criminals (which really don't care one way or the other about firearm laws.) In fact, in some areas of the country, the victim can be tossed in prison for defending themselves, especially with duty to retreat laws... and physically nowhere to run. As for fighting back, think most Americans with sedentary jobs are going to win a melee contest against someone well-trained on the street with a knife. Won't happen.

4: More gangs with "blood in, blood out". Want your soldier status? Gotta earn it.

5: Lack of police resources. First thing cities start skimping on are police and fire protection, so crime shoots up and starts causing more people to move away for safety reasons. This is why most US people tend to move to the suburbs to raise a family... they want kids to see strays as wandering puppies, not 9mm round crossfire.

This can be seen easily in other crimes -- robberies have turned into home invasions because it is easier to shoot all the people in a house, and most females will not report a perp out of fear they will return.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (3, Insightful)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 7 months ago | (#46397917)

someone's going to label you as paranoid here.
but the patriot act was passed to "target terrorists" and was used to target everyone.
the cellphone owner is the only person who should have the option to "kill" the device.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46398089)

The patriot act's language always targeted everyone.

the cellphone owner is the only person who should have the option to "kill" the device.

Until some enterprising young hacker finds out the developer, paid too much for too little work, used the same packet with a obvious identifier for all phones, and you can start trolling people in very expensive ways.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | about 7 months ago | (#46398817)

The patriot act's language always targeted everyone.

the cellphone owner is the only person who should have the option to "kill" the device.

Until some enterprising young hacker finds out the developer, paid too much for too little work, used the same packet with a obvious identifier for all phones, and you can start trolling people in very expensive ways.

... or until someone develops an app that exploits insecurities in the phone's software to remotely brick specific/all phones nearby and sells the app or gives it away. Then anyone could brick anyone else's phone for fun or use the threat of bricking to extort money from the phone's owner.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46397961)

I'm assuming this will also allow officials to kill all the nearby smartphones when there are protests to stop people showing police violence.
Of course they'll say its so they cant text for more people to show up.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 7 months ago | (#46398979)

I'm assuming this will also allow officials to kill all the nearby smartphones when there are protests to stop people showing police violence.
Of course they'll say its so they cant text for more people to show up.

Why would they do that? They can use the phones to identify the owners (and track them afterwards).

Exactly.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398113)

We need a law that phones default to using an encrypted file system that prevents their contents from being discovered until the thieves bruit force the login key, ideally giving the victim time to notify banks, etc., but obviously the NSA, FBI, TSA, etc. would never allow real security.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398411)

There are ways to reduce theft that doesn't involve kill switch tech: a database of stolen phones for one: "I'd like to activate this phone I bought off the internet" "I'm sorry sir, this phone is listed as stolen and we can't allow it to connect to our network" just like DMV and cars' VINs. People would freak if legislators said "kill switch for all cars 'to prevent theft'"

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

davecb (6526) | about 7 months ago | (#46398535)

There is a stolen IMEI list, but it's not used much, possibly for this very reason. Car thieves have to forge a VIN, why shouldn't phone thieves have to forge an IMEI?

--dave

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 7 months ago | (#46398623)

Herp Derp, they already have that and DO that. they can disable all Cellphone towers instantly. That went into place right after 9/11

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

Artraze (600366) | about 7 months ago | (#46400011)

Temporarily disabling cell towers is completely different from permanently disabling phones. In one case a phone will work the next day or in the next town or as a music player. In the other, you're out a couple hundred bucks and all the data you had on it.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

alta (1263) | about 7 months ago | (#46398663)

what makes you think this isn't already available, on many, many levels?

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 7 months ago | (#46398941)

Yeah, right. What they want to do is be able to shut down everyone's line of communications just in case the hoi polloi get too uppity.

It it's done right you could have a little scratch card with a secret number on it. You need the number to kill the phone and the Men In Black don't know it.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 7 months ago | (#46399393)

This is perhaps a stupid question but one worth asking. For what it's worth I originally agreed with your stated concern and I'd much prefer the ability to disable this functionality on any device I own but I digress.

What would this hypothetical ability to brick your phone give the government that they don't already have? The government having this ability in the event of a revolution presupposes cooperation with the carriers. The very carriers that can already block your phone by number or location. For that matter, the army could send a small force to each and every cell tower in the area and shut them down manually (violently) if necessary. For that matter it would probably be more useful for them to just listen in on anyone they are worried about, which again they can already do.

So I just can't buy that this is some kind of government power grab. It's still a terrible idea IMO, but that particular argument just doesn't ring true to me.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

DickBreath (207180) | about 7 months ago | (#46399397)

> What they want to do is be able to shut down everyone's line of communications just in case the hoi polloi get too uppity.

I wonder if dumb-phones would have the kill switch? I don't see them, or maybe I just don't notice, but I hear that a lot of people use dumb-phones.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 7 months ago | (#46399403)

Oh, that's silly, the President of Ukrane would never have ordered the protesters' phones bricked!

The only thing I have to add is that the Statists will keep coming back and back for this kind of killswitch, and eventually it will pass, and they'll have the FCC mandate such a feature.

In such an environment, Free Hardware will have to become illegal. But keep voting for those who seek to rule you - it's for your own safety.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

DickBreath (207180) | about 7 months ago | (#46399437)

> What they want to do is be able to shut down everyone's line of communications just in case the hoi polloi get too uppity.

Actually, a more effective way to do that is to have a way to shut off communication at the towers. This would preserve the ability to send out mass propaganda to still working phones in the event of an 'emergency'. Also, I hear that there is some value in the metadata. Also the phones are tracking devices. It might be more effective and valuable to fake busy signals, and other communication interruptions rather than to outright kill smartphones.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

imrahilj (3553503) | about 7 months ago | (#46399499)

Agreed. If this is such a great feature that consumers want, someone will build a handset with it and it will be popular. The feds are getting their fingers in way too many pies these days... that's what happens when the Commerce Clause gets interpreted ever more broadly.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about 7 months ago | (#46399595)

Actually, don't forget - if there's a killswitch on your phone, then the people up top would also have it.

Re:"... as a means to reduce theft." (1)

DarksideDaveOR (557444) | about 7 months ago | (#46400063)

No, it's a means to reduce theft of service by uppity customers who think that just because they pay for a phone, they actually own it.

I'm less worried about the government (at least in the US) than I am about service providers deciding to brick my phone for non-payment, or simply to force me to upgrade.

New method of attack against consumers (5, Insightful)

blandcramration (2636571) | about 7 months ago | (#46397925)

I think it's more realistic that poor security measures will be set in place, thereby making it easy for malicious crackers to disable peoples phones remotely.

Where are stories of maliciously erased iPhones? (1)

swb (14022) | about 7 months ago | (#46399031)

This has been an iPhone/iPad feature for a while, yet I don't recall hearing a lot of stories about maliciously erased iPhones.

There seems to be a lot of assumptions that phones will be targeted, but given that hasn't happened, why assume some new system would fall victim to this?

Re:Where are stories of maliciously erased iPhones (1)

Mark4ST (249650) | about 7 months ago | (#46399761)

THIS. Apple has their Activation Lock system (AKA Find My iPhone) already, and I think this law is asking for something like that-- not a remote bricking system that can be activated by just anyone. Unauthorized bricking can only be done if someone guesses the person's Apple ID password, which is exactly as easy as it sounds. Apple's Activation Lock makes in more difficult to resell Apple phones, whether they be legit (like a phone you returned to the store) or stolen. More phones' system boards end up in the waste stream. (The other parts are usable)

Fine, if and only if it can be turned off. (3, Informative)

Valdrax (32670) | about 7 months ago | (#46397947)

Fine, if and only if it is also mandatory that a customer be allowed to disable the feature and not activate it. I do not want this on my phone. I consider it remote disabling to be a bigger risk to my enjoyment of my phone than physical theft.

Re:Fine, if and only if it can be turned off. (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | about 7 months ago | (#46398343)

Yup. There are plenty of "opt-in" solutions to mobile device management right now.

Thing is, I know of none that can completely brick a device after a wipe, and I have grave concerns over such a capability because of the damage it does if it accidentally goes off. If it can't completely brick a device, at best it can protect your data but not the smartphone itself.

The thing is, there are already solutions for smartphone theft. A smartphone, to be fully useful, needs service from a wireless carrier. To get service, a device must report its IMEI or ESN. IMEI/ESN blacklists already exist and are in use today.

Re:Fine, if and only if it can be turned off. (1)

mattventura (1408229) | about 7 months ago | (#46400199)

It doesn't necessarily need to be a permanent kill switch. It could disable the phone until it is returned to the rightful owner. Besides, if the kill switch doesn't physically damage the hardware of the phone in some way (or some other irreversible action), people will almost certainly find a way to bypass it.

Re:Fine, if and only if it can be turned off. (1)

alta (1263) | about 7 months ago | (#46398711)

What if, for the feature to work, you had to contact the carrier and give them the phone's PIN. Only then would it wipe. The carrier wouldn't be able to wipe until you contacted them with said PIN.

Or maybe when you set up the phone a 'wipe pin' that doesn't get reset when the phone is wiped?

Re:Fine, if and only if it can be turned off. (1)

DickBreath (207180) | about 7 months ago | (#46399571)

In addition to making it Opt-In, or even Opt-Out, there is no reason that the government needs to hold the switch to remotely disable a phone. If the purpose is as stated, then only the carrier needs to be able to remotely disable a phone, and only on a one-by-one basis.

So make sure that the bill makes it illegal for anyone but the carrier to remotely disable a phone, and then only with the express permission of its owner. Make it expressly illegal for the government to have direct access to the kill switch. Make the kill switch implementation be such that only a single phone can be disabled in a single manual operation -- no mass remote disabling.

Also, if they don't already do this, mandate an industry wide blacklist of IMEI's (or some other un-alterable baked -in number) in case the phone can be loaded with a new ROM image. That way at least, the phone can never be activated.

Why not extend this to WiFi only tablets as well? The manufacturer, and any manufacturer designated party (eg, Google?) can remotely disable a non-phone device if it ever phones home and has been registered by its owner as stolen.

Unconstitutional (2)

The Cat (19816) | about 7 months ago | (#46397973)

The federal government has no constitutional authority to mandate this technology.

Re:Unconstitutional (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398005)

True. And? That hasn't stopped them in the past. They'll just call it a "tax" and be done with it, it worked for the blatantly unconstitutional Obamacare.

Re:Unconstitutional (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about 7 months ago | (#46398065)

The federal government has no constitutional authority to mandate this technology.

And that has stopped them from doing these things when exactly? Ignoramuses will point to the Interstate Commerce clause, which was specifically put in place to prevent one state from interfering with the commerce of another state (i.e. New York imposing a levy on goods moving from Pennsylvania through New York to Massachusetts, etc.), not the way the SCOTUS has "interpreted" it.

Re:Unconstitutional (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about 7 months ago | (#46398265)

Hey, that's no Ignoramus, That's my senator!

Re:Unconstitutional--SCOTUS will declare it a Tax (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398465)

The Democrats will call this a "Tax".
It worked with Obamacare. Why won't it work with "kill switches"?http://politics.slashdot.org/story/14/03/04/1713203/second-federal-kill-switch-bill-introduced-targeting-smartphone-theft#

Re:Unconstitutional (1)

imrahilj (3553503) | about 7 months ago | (#46399805)

Hit the nail right on the head. As long as SCOTUS is willing to let Congress get away with things, and people aren't holding Congress responsible, there is basically nothing to be done.

Very constitutional (2)

Valdrax (32670) | about 7 months ago | (#46398439)

The federal government has no constitutional authority to mandate this technology.

Oh yes, they do, and wishful thinking doesn't make Congress's Article I powers go away. They have the right to regulate this under the Interstate Commerce Clause for several reasons:

1) The sale of the physical phones across state lines.
2) The sale of telecom services across state lines.
3) The fact that the phone is a radio transmission device whose signals cross state lines.
4) The fact that some phones are used to conduct business across state lines.
5) The presence of an interstate black market in stolen phones.

And of course, many of these also extend to international commerce. Some of these would be considered straightforward interstate and international commerce even under far more restrictive 19th century precedents.

Re:Very constitutional (2)

The Cat (19816) | about 7 months ago | (#46398519)

No. They don't. The Interstate Commerce clause does not give the federal government the authority to mandate the process of manufacturing a product. They can only regulate its sale and only if it crosses state lines.

1) The sale of the physical phones across state lines.

Which this proposal is not limited to.

2) The sale of telecom services across state lines.

Which this proposal isn't even related to.

3) The fact that the phone is a radio transmission device whose signals cross state lines.

Which has nothing to do with interstate commerce.

4) The fact that some phones are used to conduct business across state lines.

Then the business might be regulated under Article I, but that by no means gives the government blanket permission to alter the design and manufacture of the device.

5) The presence of an interstate black market in stolen phones.

Red herring.

The federal government has no constitutional authority to mandate this technology.

Re:Very constitutional (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46399195)

> They can only regulate its sale and only if it crosses state lines.

No, SCOTUS recently reaffirmed that interstate commerce is not required. Only the potential is required. This was in response to an MT law that allowed those violent Republicans to own guns that are illegal according to federal law. MT made the dishonest argument that they could regulate guns within their own borders. The SCOTUS made the correct decision that within their own borders part was completely bogus because one of those violent people may take one of those things across the border to another state. Thankfully, those violent people in MT were stopped.

Again, you CONservatives just don't fucking get that the clause isn't about actual crossing of state lines. It's about the potential to do so.

Re:Very constitutional (1)

Valdrax (32670) | about 7 months ago | (#46399487)

No. They don't. The Interstate Commerce clause does not give the federal government the authority to mandate the process of manufacturing a product. They can only regulate its sale and only if it crosses state lines.

Yeah, find that in the Constitution. The actual text of the clause is "[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes."

You'll note that there is no definition of "regulate" that limits them to only the powers you ascribe. It isn't defined at all, leaving it up to the Supreme Court to decide, like the vast majority of the Constitution, which was written for a common law system in which courts had long held the role of statutory interpretation. Reasonable readings of the word "regulate" includes far more than just a simple "thumbs up/down for all cell phones." It includes the ability to regulate the types of phones being sold, and that includes mandating certain features -- like requiring seat belts in cars.

For that matter, "Commerce" is not defined anywhere either. The Court has sensibly held that the ability to regulate commerce that crosses state lines must also include the ability to regulate (a) products made from components that cross state lines, (b) the methods of production of a product intended to be sold across state lines, and (c) instances of a product that does not cross state lines if the same product is also sold across state lines by the seller.

So, unless cell phone manufacturers intend to set up an entire supply chain and factory to make a phone which will never be sold outside the state in which it is completely and wholly manufactured from scratch, then interstate commerce applies to it under even a restricted reading. (And it certainly applies the majority of phones made in China and shipped across the country.)

Basically, what it comes down to is that, you don't seem to respect the Court's authority to define words in the Constitution that are ambiguous in nature when they don't come to a conclusion that you like. Who exactly does have the right to define "Commerce" and "regulate," then?

Re:Unconstitutional (2)

bsDaemon (87307) | about 7 months ago | (#46398653)

Regulation of Interstate and International Commerce? They could ban the importation of devices which do not have this feature. Maybe they can't require you to purchase a phone that has it, but they can make it impossible not to. Or, do you know of a cell phone that was made entirely in the town/state you live in and which doesn't at any times cross state borders? Didn't think so.

At least, that's the argument that they'll make -- the same one they always make when people claim that the Federal government doesn't have the "constitutional authority" to do something. Arguing against it isn't going to get you very far, whether or not you're right.

Re:Unconstitutional (1)

DickBreath (207180) | about 7 months ago | (#46399635)

> The federal government has no constitutional authority to mandate this technology.

Friend, you use such strange words. What is this 'constitutional authority' thing you speak of?

The overlords have always had the authority to do anything they please. It has been this way since the ancient time of the great change that came after the falling of two towers.

Sure, it's for the consumer... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46397975)

This could never be abused by governments or hackers.

Central Control (4, Insightful)

edibobb (113989) | about 7 months ago | (#46398067)

This way, the federal government can prevent those irritating demonstrations like this ones in Ukraine.

Re:Central Control (1)

slew (2918) | about 7 months ago | (#46399485)

This way, the federal government can prevent those irritating demonstrations like this ones in Ukraine.

Don't worry about it, the government can already just commandeer the cell tower backhaul network and/or central office. This would be a simple escalation from what they are doing in the Ukraine right now [nytimes.com] by identifying phones near a protest area and sending them this text message...

"Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a riot."

The whole illusion of being able to use your cell phone when the government doesn't want you is really just a delusion anyhow...

Simpler solution (0)

realsilly (186931) | about 7 months ago | (#46398079)

Don't get a Smart Phone. With all the theft of Smart Phones, it appears to me to not be smart to own a Smart Phone.

I am always amazed how much people are willing to spend on a hand held device for making roaming phone calls.

To own a Smart Phone, you've spent the equivalency of a small but working laptop computer, and then pay for it 3 to 4 times over in a given year just to have it be more than a phone.

And they are tracked to death by government and every company in the world who wants to sell you their crap. You're actually paying them to advertise to you.

*sigh*

Re:Simpler solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398363)

You appear to be a very paranoid person.
Every company in the world is not spying on my smart phone... only google, at&t, samsung, rovio, the makers of candy crush, weather.com, amazon, facebook, google again, microsoft, anyone who runs a php web based forum, and a few others... hardly an extensive list of every company. (now the people those companies are selling my information to is slightly larger, but still not all inclusive of EVERY company)

My phone is certainly not being tracked to death... were that the case, it would be unlikely that it would be alive (in a working sense not in a eats and breathes and grows sense)

Finally on the topic of theft, if you are so afraid to have anything nice because it might get stolen, then you deserve nothing at all.
Am I worried my house will get broken into? a bit, but I lock the doors and have an alarm.
Am I worried that my car will get stolen? a bit, but I lock the doors and have an alarm.
Am I worried that my phone will get stolen? Not really nearly as much as the other two, because it cost a few hundred dollars they others cost a few thousand, but despite that I lock it and can lock it again remotely, and I can set off various alarms on it remotely, as well as wipe the device and disconnect it from service.
Am I worried that my laptop will be stolen? Yes, but I lock it and have encryption.

Risk needs to be mitigated, not hidden from... hiding from risk only encourages you to find a dark hole to live your life in... and you know what else is in dark holes, spiders, some of which are poisonous, so even hiding from risk has certain risks. Best to take the challenges and work through them to move forward rather than hiding from them. Or we could all be luddites.... but that doesn't seem very /. like.

Re:Simpler solution (1)

maharvey (785540) | about 7 months ago | (#46398525)

I don't want a phone, I want a small but working computer with 24/7/anywhere connectivity. The only way I can get that at present is with a smartphone. (Well, if I want it pocket-sized anyway.) I hate phones and I hate phone companies, but there are no good alternatives.

Re:Simpler solution (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 7 months ago | (#46399177)

I am always amazed how much people are willing to spend on a hand held device for making roaming phone calls.

I've never paid for a smart phone in my life* and I'm on my third one now. The latest one is Android 4.2 with 5" screen, dual core CPU, 5MP camera. Not an iPhone, I know, but a pretty decent phone.

[*] Unless you count signing up for a $10-a-month plan with unlimited-talk and unlimited data as "paying" for a phone...

I just piggy-back the phone account on top of my $25-a-month fiber optic Internet connection (200Mbit up/down) and they usually give me a new phone to sweeten the deal.

Thre is already software for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398103)

That means the only use case left is inappropriate

Open Source Community (1)

giltwist (1313107) | about 7 months ago | (#46398121)

I wouldn't worry too much about it. The open source community will have a high incentive to resolve this problem. The next version of ClockworkMod will come standard with a kill-switch disabler or there will be a step by step soldering guide posted to Instructables.

Re:Open Source Community (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398703)

You should not have to root your phone and solder hardware to protect it from being remotely bricked by your government.

You should care.

Re:Open Source Community (1)

giltwist (1313107) | about 7 months ago | (#46399259)

I agree that I should not have to, but the nice thing about being a regular /. reader is that I will be able to do so. We've survived DRM, we can survive this. However, I do hope it goes down the drain without passing.

Re:Open Source Community (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 7 months ago | (#46399289)

What if it needs a secret number on a scratch card to disable it?

Would that work...?

Priorities (1)

kc-guy (1108521) | about 7 months ago | (#46398139)

Of course this is before the bill allowing cell phone users (apparently not owners) to legally unlock their phones clears the Senate.

The telecom operators will like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398165)

So now if you didn't finished your contract, or are in debt they will disable your phone.

And forget about reselling your phone as second hand.

Bad Legislation With Darker Possibilities (1)

BrendaEM (871664) | about 7 months ago | (#46398217)

This is a piece of legislation dangerous to our freedom. During peaceful demonstrations cellphones could be id'ed can be gathered and be deactivated at will.
If we are ever in a war in the mainland, an invading army could deactivate our cellphones, thereby compromising our infrastructure.

A better piece of legislation would be to require a 3-day delay and used cellphones to be checked against a national database to check for theft.

Overestimating the danger? (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 7 months ago | (#46398539)

This is a piece of legislation dangerous to our freedom. During peaceful demonstrations cellphones could be id'ed can be gathered and be deactivated at will.

And what exactly is to prevent said people from using someone else's phone? Furthermore people managed to protest successfully long before cell phones existed. Cell phones are helpful but hardly vital.

If we are ever in a war in the mainland, an invading army could deactivate our cellphones, thereby compromising our infrastructure.

I think you are grossly underestimating the difficulty of actually doing that. An invading army could simply bomb the cell towers and accomplish substantially the same goal if we're going to talk about unlikely hypothetical situations. That said, exactly what army are you worried about given the size and strength of the US military? Do you think anyone really wants to tangle with the USA in an actual combat operation? Add in the number of citizens that own firearms, the size of the country, physical geography and I can't think of any country less likely to be invaded. You think Canada or Mexico is going to suddenly get all uppity?

A better piece of legislation would be to require a 3-day delay and used cellphones to be checked against a national database to check for theft.

Why is this suddenly sounding like a gun control argument?

Iran, Russia, Venezuela approve (4, Insightful)

PackMan97 (244419) | about 7 months ago | (#46398229)

...they all stopped by to give a +1 to this idea. They'd love a way to be able to brick cell phones of protesters and stop videos from getting out into the world.

Re:Iran, Russia, Venezuela approve (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 7 months ago | (#46398557)

They'd love a way to be able to brick cell phones of protesters and stop videos from getting out into the world.

Last time I checked regular digital cameras still worked and the internet was still a thing. Might be less efficient but if they shut down the internet the cell phones wouldn't be any help either.

Re:Iran, Russia, Venezuela approve (1)

imatter (2749965) | about 7 months ago | (#46399763)

Because I always carry a digital camera in the case that the government decides to brick my phone and it fits nicely in my pocket next to my phone.

Just wait until things go wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398257)

Just wait until a suspect will destroy all the info on the phone during his arrest and the police will have to go through hoops to prove a case.

Re:Just wait until things go wrong (1)

maharvey (785540) | about 7 months ago | (#46398559)

Users probably won't have that ability. Also I have no doubt that the lawmakers will put a backdoor in for law enforcement to un-brick it.

Why are the corps against this? (1)

koan (80826) | about 7 months ago | (#46398259)

I find it interesting that the phone companies are against this, why?

Re:Why are the corps against this? (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | about 7 months ago | (#46398379)

Because it's a shitty law that has too many dangerous drawbacks, and they already have a better solution (IMEI/ESN blacklisting) in place.

Re:Why are the Telcos against this? (1)

davecb (6526) | about 7 months ago | (#46398463)

They need a motivation to honour a customer's request to be placed on the list. Right now, they're in a conflict of interest.

Re:Why are the corps against this? (2)

bsDaemon (87307) | about 7 months ago | (#46398785)

The way I heard it described on the news this morning, the proposal was to allow you to "cancel a phone like a credit card," which sounded to me like you could call up with the ESN and have it black listed and they would have to do it. Right now, the phone companies have a conflict of interest in that they get to sell you a knew phone, and sell another service plan to your old phone, assuming it stays in the country. They make probably at least as much, if not more, off of cell phone theft than the muggers who swipe it out of your hand on the Metro do.

I think there are other proposal that allow you to have the phone bricked via some technical control, but it seems like that is open to all kinds of abuse.

Re:Why are the corps against this? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 7 months ago | (#46399313)

Because it's a shitty law that has too many dangerous drawbacks

Huh? Why would they be against it if it means they get to sell more phones?

Re:Why are the corps against this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398381)

The make substantial money from the sales of services to stolen phones, and from selling new phones to the victims.

This is all unnecessary anyway. All the phone companies need to do is block the id's of stolen phones from their networks and the problem is solved. The technology is there and used around the world already. Europe doesn't have a phone theft problem, because it's carriers don't encourage theft by actively supporting the use of stolen phones.

The only thing we need is a court to rule that a phone company is a co-conspirator in theft based on the fact that they are providing service to a phone which they know is stolen. A good healthy fine will quickly make the whole problem go away.

Re:Why are the corps against this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398487)

What we need is a group of slime-ball lawyers to realize they could launch a class-action against the phone companies on behalf of the people whose phones have been stolen due to the collusion of the providers. It won't provide the victims anything more than a worthless coupon for something they don't want or need, but it could get the providers to actually do the right thing for a change.

You can't cure Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398297)

I am tired of the Democrats and other Do-Gooders trying to save me from myself.
It is quite annoying.
It is quite scary, too.
If the system can only be activated by the "consumer", then why is it needed? This can already be accomplished.
And who will do this--does the "consumer" call the carrier and the carrier do this for the "consumer" LOL!!!--can Customer Service accomplish this?
And what happens when the Government becomes the "consumer".
We are being beaten and humiliated by the Patriot Act and it was suppose to protect us. Why should we believe a National Kill Switch will be any different?

Government intervention is Great!
--Just ask an American Indian/Native American/

Re:You can't cure Stupid (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 7 months ago | (#46398613)

If the system can only be activated by the "consumer", then why is it needed? This can already be accomplished.

http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/4065/text

You got that right. Folks, READ THE BILL! It doesn't really solve ANYTHING that setting an unlock pin on your phone doesn't already do now. In short, I see only ONE requirement imposed by this bill that isn't already addressed by current phones, and even that one is arguable. Set an unlock PIN and you've made your phone and that data on it inaccessible, you cannot use it on any carrier.

If I can read the proposed law this way, you can bet carriers will too. I know what the *intent* is, but the bill doesn't actually do that.

How long before thieves discover Faraday Cages? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398391)

Interesting expensive government solutions usually have a cheap and effective counter-measure. In this case, whats to stop a thief from immediately placing a purloined phone into some sort of bag which would block the disable-signal? Since many of these stolen phones are sold overseas anyway, just keep them in the bags until they are out of range, unless they also plan on continuously broadcasting kill-signals worldwide.

Re:How long before thieves discover Faraday Cages? (1)

mindcandy (1252124) | about 7 months ago | (#46399101)

You can already buy them .. police have been using them in the form of evidence bags for phones for a while now.
For example .. this : http://www.paraben.com/strongh... [paraben.com]

Awesome! (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | about 7 months ago | (#46398403)

Anyone want to take bets on how soon someone figures out how to disable every cell phone in their office?

Re:Awesome! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398659)

Do you realize how awesome it would be if I could brick all my coworkers cellphones. Productivity would go through the roof I tell you.

Government Surveillance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46398417)

From the same government that got caught snooping on us: they want to know where we are, who we're talking to, and disable our phones "in case of theft." Right. Same President also, who wanted an Internet kill switch.

Politicians Creating Mischief (1)

hackus (159037) | about 7 months ago | (#46398495)

This has nothing to do with Theft.

I am glad most people on this forum understand what it is really about.

Although this is just another banker instigated piece of mischief, what you should be really paying attention to is the bankers, now knowing they have no way to destroy Syria and Iran, are now going after Russia.

Russia, is not a country full of old 1960's military grade hardware like Iran, Syria and Iraq.

They have Nukes.

These bankers try to do to Syria, Iraq, Libya thing in Russia, guys we are going to wake up and cities are going to be missing.

Instead of wiping (1)

alta (1263) | about 7 months ago | (#46398763)

How about, instead of wiping it, it just automatically sends all outbound calls to the carrier's customer service number for stolen phones?

These stupid Republicans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46399057)

never quit. They won't be happy until we have zero ways of communicating. Insular ignorance is their way. Smart phones are the antithesis to CONservatives.

How about law enforcement retrieves them (2)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 7 months ago | (#46399189)

There are many aps that show where your phone is located. Cops could go retrieve your phone for you. I bet they even find more criminal activities nearby. Win win.

Technically, how would this work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46400121)

Plan a, the network remembers the id of stolen phones and won't play with them.
      (Enterprising thief sends the phone out of country to a carrier that will play.)

Plan b, the network tells the S/W in the phone to brick.
      (A hacker figures out how to unbrick the phone.)

Plan c, the network tells the S/W to blow a brick fuse in the phone.
      This physically prevents the phone from executing code.
      (A hacker figures out how to brick all of [pick a group]'s phones, there is an uproar, law goes away.)

This seems like a Monte Python skit.
  How is this remote brick plan actually going to work?

Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46400227)

Does the legislation allow the authorities to turn off all the phones in an area? If so the idea expressed in the comment How about law enforcement retrieves them seems to be a much better idea. The authorities now know where the phone is unless the battery is removed.
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