Kill Switch Law : What You Need To Know

Today, Minnesota was the first state in the nation to pass a bill requiring all smartphones, sold within their state starting on July 1st, 2014, to have the ability to be remotely disabled—also known as having a Kill Switch.

The concept isn’t new; California has been debating about the “Kill Switch” law for a while now, and although Minnesota beat them to the punch the rest of the nation wonders, ‘What does this all mean?’

There isn’t an actual “Kill Switch.”
Minnesota’s bill, located here, doesn’t actually require a kill switch as all. Strangely enough, the bill simply states that all smartphones must be “equipped with a preloaded anti theft functionality or be capable of downloading that functionality.” Which in our opinion, is (1) very vague, and (2) a disappointment—most of us expected an actual switch that we would have to run home go gain access to, sort of like those ‘break glass in case of emergency’ buttons. Now that’s a kill switch

Regardless, Minnesota is stating the obvious. With every player in the smartphone industry already having promised to offer remote lock and remote wipe functionality, Minnesota’s law and legislation are simply sugar-coating what smartphone manufactures, like Apple and Samsung, are already working on.

For most of us who don’t know how Find My iPhone or Android Device Manager work—it’s time for a wake-up call. These security solutions are only good at locating, locking and wiping stolen smartphones that stay connected to cellular or WiFi networks. Any professional thief would be smart enough to either turn off the phone, remove the battery, or activate Airplane Mode immediately after such device was stolen—but here’s the good news. Similar to the pending California kill switch law, Minnesota requires all phones to have software similar to Apple’s Activation Lock (introduced in iOS7), and Samsung’s Reactivation Lock (introduced in the Galaxy S5). If enabled, a stolen phone cannot be reactivated after a factory reset without the owner’s Apple/Samsung ID and password.

On top of that, the Minnesota law also criminalizes buying or selling used phones for cash without the compliance of their new record keeping requirements. So next time you decide to buy a used smartphone from Amazon, Ebay, or Craigslist think twice—documentation, factory resting, and your checkbook, or credit card will be necessary. “Used phone vendors will (also) need to set up security cameras and take down driver’s license numbers for trade-ins, or risk running afoul of the new law.”

Overall, Minnesota’s kill switch law is a good starting concept—we just hope California comes out with an even better one.