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PRISM paranoia could torpedo Save Our Smartphones killswitch efforts

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iOS 7 features redesigned applications include Music and SafariWith smartphone thefts on the rise and an underground market for handsets thriving, law enforcement officials in the US want to do something to make trafficking stolen phones more difficult.

A proposal from the Save Our Smartphones initiative would have major handset vendors put so-called killswitch protections on their devices, which would allow stolen phones to be rendered useless, or “bricked". The handsets would stay in locked mode and the thief would be unable to access data or restore a device to its factory default settings.

The idea is an interesting one. Apple recently unveiled a similar feature, and certainly the prospect of a stolen phone being rendered useless would reduce the incentive to steal a handset in the first place. In the wake of recent events, however, a killswitch plan could also be met with heavy resistance from the public.

Just one week ago a former government contractor blew the whistle on what was perhaps the biggest domestic surveillance project in history, the PRISM system. The massive project collected data from virtually all of the major internet application and web service providers.

With the knowledge that the government is looking to monitor everything from your webmail and search history to your Skype chat logs, users might not be so keen on a master killswitch mobile platform.

After all, if you can't trust law enforcement groups and service providers to responsibly handle the data they already have on users, would you also want to give them the opportunity to potentially access your mobile phone remotely and possibly even permanently cripple it?

13 Jun 2013

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