Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Before Passing Cell-Phone 'Kill Switch' Bill, Consider These Concerns

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Before Passing Cell-Phone 'Kill Switch' Bill, Consider These Concerns

Article excerpt

There has been a lot of attention recently around the issue of cell-phone safety, especially as it relates to the University of Minnesota, where I am a freshman. As a young female, I take these public-safety issues on campus very seriously. Whether it is coming home from the library late at night, or trying to spend time with friends on the weekend, I am in the demographic that is most at risk.

I have watched with some nervousness as state legislators here have started the process to mandate what is known as a "kill switch" on new devices. Legislators are saying that they want wireless devices to be able to be wiped clean if they are stolen. Sounds great, right?

Here is what makes me nervous as a female on a big urban campus. Imagine a situation in which I lose my phone, or presume it is stolen. I do the responsible thing and report it, and because "kill switch" legislation has passed in Minnesota, I am able to wipe the phone clean, essentially making it an overvalued paperweight. Part of killing the phone likely means erasing its ability to be used to call 911. Now what happens if I find my lost phone after it has been wiped clean, but before I've had a chance to get a new phone? In an age when most people only have a wireless device, what would I do if in an emergency situation with a bricked phone before I've had the ability to have my device replaced?

For those in law enforcement, I would ask if they are comfortable that this legislation can be amended in such a way that will allow 911 calls to be made once a phone is "killed?" Or put differently, is law enforcement comfortable with the fact that people in Minnesota might not be able to call 911 in emergency situations?'

The issue of forensic evidence

Another issue that is very concerning to me as a potentially vulnerable student, is what data is lost from a phone that is "killed" from a "kill switch." I can only assume that is the answer is everything. We're talking about potentially violent crimes here. What forensic evidence would be lost in this instance? What evidence that could be the key to solving a crime against a student like me, or a friend of mine, would be wiped out along with the rest of the data? …

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