Klobuchar introduces bill to fight smartphone theft


U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduced legislation to fight the growing trend of smartphone theft by requiring all phones sold in the United States to have a "kill switch" that makes it impossible to reuse stolen devices.

The Star Tribune reports thieves are targeting smart phones because of their high resale value. Nearly a third of all robberies now involve cell phone theft.

Klobuchar said in a statement, "Cell phone theft has become a big business for thieves looking to cash in on these devices and any valuable information they contain, costing consumers more than $30 billion every year and endangering countless theft victims."

Klobuchar's bill would give the FCC the ability to fine phone manufacturers or wireless carriers that refuse to comply.

"This legislation will help eliminate the incentives for criminals to target smartphones by empowering victims to take steps to keep their information private, protect their identity and finances, and render the phone inoperable to the thieves," said Klobuchar.

Critics say the "kill switch" legislation, which requires a remote wipe of personal information, could open the door to serious abuse.

The Washington Post reports Electronic Frontier Foundation activist Parker Higgins said government or law enforcement agencies could overstep their use of the technology. He said hackers could also remotely wipe the device by swiping the credentials of a phone's owner.

Higgins told the Post, "Sometimes these proposals don't get enough critical inspection. It needs to be in the control of the user...if we make this part of the system of the police procedure on phone theft, it can raise all kinds of problems."

Smartphone theft has been in the headlines a lot recently in Minnesota. Areas around the University of Minnesota campus have seen an uptick in crime as several students have been targeted by criminals for their smartphones and laptop computers.

Klobuchar outlined her proposal during a visit to the U of M last month.

According to the Post, supporters argue that finding ways to protect against theft is particularly important given how much data is now stored on the devices.

Critics of the Senate bill say it makes sense to give consumers some protection within the device, but it's also important to think about the downsides.

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