A bill has been introduced in California that would mandate a kill switch for cellphones that have been stolen, prompting concerns that such a system could be abused by authorities in order to stifle dissent.
SB 962 would require that all cellphones sold in the state include software or hardware, “that can render inoperable the essential features of the device, as defined, when the device is not in the possession of the rightful owner.”
Although the owner would have the option to disable the function under the language of the bill, sales of any cellphone that didn’t include the technology would be prohibited.
Although the ‘kill switch’ would ostensibly be included to discourage theft, a scenario where authorities could hijack the technology to shut down communications in a sensitive area in order to limit photo and streaming video coverage, such as at a demonstration or at the scene of unfolding police brutality, is easy to envisage.
Hate to tell you folks, but this capability is already inherent in cell phones by virtue of the way they work. All you have to do is shut down a couple of cell towers in one area and that's a blackout. Cell providers can black out every phone by remote already with a mouse click. One warrant accompanied by one cop is all you need to black out an area, a town, the whole state, or just one person. All this bill does is formalize the thing, call it a special name, and hand the "switch" to state authorities so they don't have to go through the fuss of getting a warrant.