Ng: Kill switch

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Thursday, February 20, 2014


MAN’s affair with his cell phone is an endless tale of woe and wonder. Every day, we read about people getting into accidents or being run over because they were too engrossedwith their cellphone. Every day, you hear about one person losing his cell phone and another getting killed while trying to prevent his cell phone from being snatched. I have lost my cell phone thrice and know at least a dozen people who have lost, or have had their phones stolen.

According to US officials, over 1.6 million Americans were robbed of their mobile devices last year and cell phones are becoming the number one thing lost or robbed.

Two months ago, Samsung introduced a new mobile device that tries to solve this problem - if you lose your cell phone, you can remotely disable it so that it will become useless. Obviously, if thieves know that the cell phone they will steal will become useless, that would remove most of the incentive of stealing one.

Unfortunately at that time, it did not take off. The major telecom carriers refused to sell it. For them, adding this kind of feature – which they have dubbed the kill switch, will create a customer service burden. They are afraid of users who keep coming back to them and call them to reactivate a phone that is already dead, etc.

For those of you who might be frustrated at this development, there is another positive development. US lawmakers, noting this problem and good solution, have actually passed a bill mandating that all phones have this kill switch after 2016. The lawmakers said that it was important to pass a law that would address this issue noting that cell phone theft is now into billions of dollars a year, not counting the cost of data loss, or loss of lives.

The bill would allow owners to remotely wipe their data and render the phone inoperable and prevent it from being activated by anyone, including the factory.

We hope that can eliminate a lot of cell phone losses. Meanwhile, amusing things continue to happen. A website reported that two New York teenagers who robbed a man of his iPhone were caught. How? Well, after they got the cell phone, they started taking selfies and the phone sent it to the man’s iCloud, allowing the owner to identify the thieves. (www.twitter.com/wilsonng)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 21, 2014.

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