Minnesota lawmakers press for cell phone 'kill switch'

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Minnesota lawmakers are joining other states calling for mandatory cellphone technology that would allow people to remotely disable a lost or stolen smart phone.

State Rep. Joe Atkins, who chairs the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, announced on Thursday that he will introduce a bill in time for the 2014 legislative session, according to the Associated Press.

Several other states have attempted similar efforts, but so far those efforts have not been successful.

Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar joined in the calls for demanding that wireless providers enable new anti-theft technology on phones.

Klobuchar says one-third of all robberies involve cellphone theft. She estimates that resulted in around $30 billion in lost or stolen phones. Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, believes the "kill switch" technology could significantly reduce phone theft.

In Minnesota, cellphone security has been in the news with recent attacks around the University of Minnesota and the attack on former Minneapolis Mayoral candidate Mark Andrew at the Mall of America.

The Hill reports Klobuchar sent a letter to the heads of Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and US Cellular asking them if they have included the "kill switch" in their phones and to explain why or why not. Those groups provide service to more than 90 percent of the nation's wireless customers.

In a statement Klobuchar said, "The wireless industry needs to step up to the plate and address these thefts, and make sure consumers have the most advanced security technology at their fingertips."

However, many of those providers are opposed to the "kill switch." The Wireless Association says the switches have very serious risks.

Providers worry that if such a switch were created it would be known by every operator and would not be able to be kept secret. Also, they say they are already developing a proactive, multifaceted approach to dry up the market for stolen phones.

Providers say part of that effort involves the development of an integrated database that is meant to prevent stolen phones from being reactivated. They say as more carriers around the world participate in the database, criminals will have fewer outlets for the stolen devices.

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