California lawmakers have been working on a bill for some time that would require a so-called "smartphone kill switch" in every phone, but Minnesota has beaten California to the punch and become the first state to enact such a law. It mirrors the California law very closely, but goes a step further by banning some cash sales of used phones.

2014_05_14_Expungement_Kill_Switch_Signings 238_1

The main provision of the bill covers how the proposed kill switch requirement would work. It's not some sweeping mandate that carriers have to add something new to your phone – it only requires that antitheft functionality be available. It can be preinstalled or be downloaded after the fact, but it has to be free. The bill doesn't really go into much detail about what specific features are required, but you could easily make the argument Android Device Manager and Find My iPhone both meet the basic requirements (or at least could with some tweaks). The intent is probably to require that phones can be completely nuked, which would require new functionality in the case of ADM. Apple already has something like this with Activation Lock.

The bill's other provision is perhaps more interesting. It will no longer be legal for smartphone "device dealers" to pay cash for a used phone. They will need to keep records and only pay for phones with check or electronic fund transfer. This is an attempt to make it harder to unload stolen devices, but what about selling your phone on Craigslist for cash? Being a Minnesotan who buys a lot of phones, I was particularly interested in this point. The bill only applies to dealers, and it defines a dealer as a person or company "in the business of buying or selling used wireless communications devices." That would seem to exclude a regular person-to-person Craigslist sale for personal use.

Even if you don't live in the frozen wastes of Minnesota, this might affect you. As the first state to actually enact one of these bills, the Minnesota law serves as a model for other states. Once a few more begin requiring similar things, OEMs and carriers will have to make sure they're in compliance. The Minnesota bill seems fairly simple to implement, as some of the pieces are already in place. It goes into effect July 1st, 2015.

[Governor's Blog, Kill Switch Bill]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Shawn De Cesari

    Does the highest legislative body in Minnesota seriously have nothing better to concern itself with than this?

    • http://4cm4k1.com/ Anthony C. Maki

      Also just now agreed on compromise to legalize some forms of pot. So there you go. Ha!

      • h4rr4r

        If this is CBD oil from other states, then that is just horrid. That means folks will be violation federal law, and state laws to go get this stuff. Remember even in Colorado moving it out of the state is illegal and dispensaries selling to you for such purposes can also be in legal hot water.

    • Jens Knutson

      Of course MN has bigger problems that this, every state does.

      But those bigger problems usually require a lot of time and effort to solve. While they're trying to solve those bigger problems, they might as well go after some lesser but easier problems which have a good return on the investment of time & energy required to solve them.

      • rmkilc

        It's not a "problem" the government should be involved in.

        • h4rr4r

          Why not?
          The government should be involved in what ever the voters it represents want.

          • rmkilc

            DId the voters vote on this?

          • h4rr4r

            They voted for those representatives. Which is how our system works.
            If you don't even know that, you probably should just go sit at the kids table and be quiet.

          • rmkilc

            Of course I know how our system works. The representatives don't always represent the people. There are a lot of things signed into law, and then later put on the ballot and voted down.

          • Matthew Fry

            But that's the point of the representative democracy. You elect and pay them to devote large portions of their time to analyzing and determining the correct course of action as they see it even if the populous at large disagree. If we wanted someone to just parrot our views it's no different than a straight democracy (at least that's what I believe is the ideal of a representative democracy)

          • DeathofAmerica

            This is sad...so sad.

            No. That is not what America is about.

          • h4rr4r

            Representative Democratic Constitutional Republic is what we have been since our founding.
            If you want some other form of government feel free to promote that.

          • du

            You wish, it's not really the case.

        • jak_341

          Exactly. Just another big government push.

      • TruthCrusader

        So while they're trying to solve those bigger problems, we might as well let a liberal elite decide how to restrict the rights of free people even more.
        They'd get done with the big problems faster if they actually spent time working on them. This is ridiculous pandering that helps do-nothing politicians get reelected, is all.

    • Mark

      This is a good thing. Manufacturers won't make phones for just Minnesota. There will be absolutely no point in stealing smartphones, thieves will know the phones just get borked.

      Voilla, phone-theft eliminated.

      • Justin W

        IIRC, according to the article on TheVerge, this bill only says it must either come pre-installed or with the ability to install some type of anti-theft mechanism with a remote switch. For example, any Android device or iOS device for the past while has come with these apps available (iOS built in, and up until somewhat recently, Android through the Play Store).

      • TruthCrusader

        No, this is a waste of time, and an intrusion of the government's role into my private life. The government should build park benches, and that's it. Let people directly decide what they want through their buying choices instead.

      • Cody Curry

        Let's just limit the rights of free citizens and hope real hard that thieves will knock it off!

        All this does it take power from us. Determined thieves and idiots will still take phones. You can't just make it go away. This isn't a magical solution.

        • ltredbeard

          While I think the time writing the law could have been used better, how is this limiting the rights of free citizens?

          • Biggy Johnson

            It eliminates choice, and if this is a government approved app you know the cops will have access to track phones, record audio and video, track text messages and internet usage for prosecuting criminals. But what if I don't want it its probably illegal to remove and that makes the average citizen a criminal.

          • ltredbeard

            What? First of all, it only has to be available to the user. That means it doesn't have to be installed and you could, potentially, uninstall it if it was pre-installed. (read the bill in the link) Second, that means you don't have to use it so choice isn't limited. Third, it is anti theft not tracking. Although anti-theft could include the ability to track, cops can already track you and access all your phone records with no additional software.

            I'm all about choice and privacy, but I don't think a legitimate argument has been made to how this is limiting the rights of citizens.

          • Biggy Johnson

            OK well the link to the bill was not up earlier, we will all need to wait and see what the carriers and manufactures do to be compliant with this legislation.

      • simp1istic

        Because that's how theft works. Go search ebay for "Bad ESN" and see the list of people willing to sell stuff to make a buck. It's a low risk crime.

    • Golden Eagle

      Ummm, protecting citizens from rip-offs and thieves is usually a sign of a higher, civilized society. Not sure what part of soviet Russia you're posting this from.

      • SopHO

        If you need that kind of protection, you belong in a mental hospital.

    • Biggy Johnson

      I live in the peoples republic of Minnesota and and this is what happens when one political party controls the state

      • SopHO

        For the liberal simpletons on here: Democrats run Minnesota

  • rmkilc

    What a waste of time. More mandates by the government. Let the free market decide if phones should have or need kill switches!

    • Defenestratus

      We obviously can't have common sense market-driven decisions being made. Clearly our politicians, who I'm sure are all experts in the wireless technology industry, need to do this for us since we're too dumb to do it ourselves.

    • h4rr4r

      Like the free market decided to kill some miners in WV?

      • TruthCrusader

        No, you twat, that was a disaster NOT provoked by the free market. Shame on you for making light of those people's deaths.

        • h4rr4r

          I am not making light of anything. The free market in that case decided the coal was worth more than the miners. That is why we need regulation and regulators with teeth.

          • Biggy Johnson

            I am not very familiar with this case but regulations don't exist in a true free market. Regulations are one of the control mechanism for a command economy.

          • h4rr4r

            You need to read more Adam Smith. A free market needs regulation to even exist.

            The idea you put forward is even more horrifying though. The labor cost would not go up, there are people who need work around there.

          • Biggy Johnson

            I have read some however I am not an expert on Smith. My thoughts about what what I read is he would be against the size and power of our current government. He does say some regulation are needed but most regulations today are because of political influence or ideology and he would be against that.

            the second part is simple I know a few welders that work on offshore oil drilling rigs its dangerous work and they get paid very well because of that.

            thats the truth dangerous work pays well.

          • h4rr4r

            Not all dangerous work pays well, nor should work be dangerous just to save a couple dollars.

            Ensuring companies not cut corners to save a couple bucks is not political, who really wants dead coal miners?

            Coal mining does not pay that well, nor does it need to be this dangerous. These people were negligent and the MSA not having the ability to shutdown a coal mine is ludicrous.

          • Biggy Johnson

            True, but the vast majority of dangerous work pay more than
            non dangerous work, so as a general rule it pays better

            Coal mining is very political because of climate change many people want it stopped including Obama. Here in Saint
            Paul we removed a perfectly working coal electric plant and replaced it with a natural gas one because of local regulations. The net result was about a 20% increase in our electric bills not something the majority of citizens wanted.

            Now was this a disaster or was the company negligent that I
            can’t answer because it is not known.

            At any rate we are both off subject my point is the free
            market did not cause this because you are assuming a majority of Americans want a company that will kill its workers to provide service cheaper and I don’t think that's true.

          • h4rr4r

            Forget climate change, Coal is nasty no matter what.

            Americans want cheap power, clearly they are ok with killing miners. Natural gas kills less folks than coal and you stated people did not want to make that switch. Your own comment says the free market would rather kill miners than pay more for power.

          • Biggy Johnson

            LOL no it does not I was complaining about the price but I am not the market. I don't think most Minnesotans noticed and if they did they got the energy program they wanted.

          • h4rr4r

            I want coal mining stopped for other reasons, it is bad enough even without climate change.

            Believe in it or not? You can not believe all you want in gravity, changes nothing.
            Nuclear is only cheap if the government pays all the insurance and cleanup costs. I love it, but it is not free market friendly.

          • Biggy Johnson

            Ah but gravity is proven science, climate change is not.

          • h4rr4r

            Says who? Find a reputable climatologist who disagrees.
            Science is never proven, it is merely not proved wrong. Gravity is believed to be caused by mass, only because that explanation has not yet been proven wrong.

          • Biggy Johnson

            Most do agree on the cause being greenhouse gases and such, but no consensus on the effects.

          • h4rr4r

            They all agree on the effects, simply the degree of them is up for debate. Even that is pretty close, arguing over single digit degree differences.

          • Biggy Johnson

            Thats not true, take a simple question like how much would be a safe amount of co2 you wont find a consensus.

          • h4rr4r

            Again, that is details.

          • Biggy Johnson

            but what the predictions are and what we experiencing are two different things. Something like the last 15 years with no global temperature changes

          • h4rr4r

            Yeah, predictions will not always be 100%. Welcome to reality.
            There has been change in the last 15 years.

            Either way, burning coal is bad. Even if you ignore all CO2 production. It kills more people, if we exclude wars, than any other form of energy we use. Both in its production and as a result of burning it.
            Nuclear kills less folks than solar. That sounds impossible but installers falling off of roofs are deaths attributed to solar power.

          • Biggy Johnson

            So what the consensus is we should have seen between .75-1.5 degree increase in global temperature in those fifteen years and we did not

    • Jens Knutson

      The market _has_ decided on it: as the article says, Android and iOS have these features already.

      This makes that part of the bill seem superfluous, but the "kill switch" isn't the most interesting aspect of this bill, IMO. The big change (which the market would _never_ bring about on its own) is the "dealers can't pay cash for used phones" part.

    • jak_341

      Remember. The government is here to help.

  • MirandaYoung87

    what the hell is going on in Minnesota??? sorry guys , but this story sounds better : http://www.joonw.com :-)

  • mark boyle

    This protects our property, why is this bad?

    • Guest

      Because politics have been introduced into AP, now we see what side of the line everyone lies on. Someone's already blaming liberals for something.

  • ThatVZWguy

    In other news my new grey market mobile phones sales seems to be picking up in MN.

  • b_to_the_randon

    This isn't a bad thing; those machines that you can trade phones for cash are virtually lances for stolen phones.

  • David Hart

    I do not like this no sell law.
    This infringes upon my American right of commerce.

  • mugabuga

    It's not a "kill-switch". It just requires that every device has Google Device Manager-like capabilities, such as tracking and remote locking and wiping.

    • Sean O’Connor

      And it doesn't even require it to be pre-installed, just avaiable. That part of the bill means virtually nothing to Android and ios phone owners.

      The only important part here is illegalizing stolen phone fencing, which is a no brainier that should have been passed years ago. I would have a hard time believing even a quarter of phones put into those "Phones for Cash" machines were not stolen.

    • RyanWhitwam

      The language is intentionally vague, I think, but it's definitely talking about a tool to make stolen phones useless. It's a deterrent. Locking and wiping are good for cutting your losses, but it doesn't make the phone less valuable. It can just be reset.

  • Zimmerman

    If I can't buy used phones from Craigslist anymore my life will be ruined!!

  • tkeith

    Frozen wasteland? I'll have you know it's a balmy 43 degrees right now

    • Biggy Johnson

      yea but frost on my windshield yesterday