You are here:

Libertarians/mandatory cell phone kill switch

Advertisement


Question
Much of what I know about libertarianism is appealing, but questions persist, and this is one.

In the California legislature currently a bill is in progress that would require the presence of a "kill switch" on new cell phones. This is intended to stop the epidemic of cell phone thefts. My understanding is that the addition of such a mechanism, for which technology exists, would cost very little, and my question to you assumes those facts to be true. I'm also assuming that the libertarian position is the same as the industry position: opposed to such a legal requirement.

Should the bill fail, manufacturers would be free to offer the kill switch as an option, or a manufacturer might choose to produce only phones with the kill switch. These choices however would be unlikely, in view of the purported 8 billion dollar yearly profit on the sale of cell phone loss/theft insurance.  

So my question is, How would a libertarian justify defeat of the kill-switch bill?

Answer
Hello Richard, thanks for the question!

I'm not familiar with the "kill switch" proposal in California, but I can tell you that my carrier already provides similar protections against theft in three ways: 1). Password protection in which I can have the phone completely clear all its data after 10 failed attempts. 2) A "Find my phone" app. that allows me to disconnect ("kill") my phone remotely from my computer or tablet and 3) Call in to the provider and they'll deactivate it, activating it again if/when I recover it.

I'm not bragging about my provider, I'm simply pointing out the private industry has already provided its customer options IF THEY CHOOSE TO USE THEM.  If I don't want to setup the password, download the app or even make a call to my provider, none of the above are in place.  So the question is, if the options are already in place between the consumer and the provider, why does government need to implement a "kill switch" mandate?  What comes next? Mandating each phone get a 2nd number associated with it if a caller gets too many crank calls or wrong numbers?

So I think the argument against has a few layers: a) Redundancy: Providers already have options to protect cellphone users in the event of theft, it's up to the user to determine how much security they want. b) Cost: If you mandate technology for all (including to people that don't want/need it), you naturally increase costs to create that expanded infrastructure. c) NSA: You KNEW I was gonna' say it right?  What access to your phone would these "kill switches" have they're not sharing (aside from access we've already seen the government has)?

In summary, the government is behind the times with the requirements and I can't help but feel they will do more harm than good by foisting their addendum's onto such legislation.

I hope I made good points in answering your question and feel free to follow up with anything I missed. Thanks again for the question.

Sean Campbell  

Libertarians

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Sean Campbell

Expertise

I am a card-carrying member of the Libertarian party with a B.S. in Political Science from Eastern Michigan University. Either through first-hand experience or by referencing my library, I can provide answers not only on the "failures" of populist political policies, but how Libertarian policies could/would work.

Experience

Card-carrying member of the Libertarian Party for over 10 years. Well read in Libertarian literature as well as "classic liberalism" (Jefferson, Bastiat, etc.).

Organizations
Libertarian Party. American Political Science Association

Publications
Local newspapers as editorials.

Education/Credentials
B.S. - Political Science EMU ("BS" in political science..Kinda' ironic! *bg*)

Awards and Honors
Golden Key International Honor Society

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.