Government always follows the pointing fingers of the fourth estate, though usually in the wrong direction. It's been two days since I posted about the rising popularity of superfluous, unnecessary, and downright useless features and doodads coming out of the sweat-soaked R&D labs of the world's mobile device manufacturers. It can't be mere coincidence the government sensed which way the wind was blowing and jumped in -- albeit on a train moving down the exact opposite track.
On Friday, Mark Leno, a San Francisco senator on the Democrat side of the house, is seeking to surf the bottom of the legislative IQ bell curve by introducing a bill that would force manufacturers to put "kill switches" on all mobile devices sold in California. (In light of what I fervently pray is his perverse sense of humor, I hope he's a relation to a certain recently retired late-night talk show comedian.) The bill is co-sponsored by the city's district attorney, George Gascón, and would institute fines of up to $2,500 for each device sold that doesn't come equipped with this nebulously defined, ill-considered, and flatly cement-headed feature.
[ For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter and follow Cringely on Twitter. | Can we talk? Send your tech war story to firstname.lastname@example.org and get a $50 AmEx gift cheque if InfoWorld publishes it. We're all ears! ]
For those who aren't familiar with the concept, a kill switch is a mechanism, physical or software-based, that would turn a device into an expensive paperweight, like some senatorial craniums, if certain criteria are met. Unfortunately, such a power can not be applied to our legislative bodies as the current Constitution stands.
The devil you know
Let's put aside the fact that asking global manufacturing companies to institute policies that satisfy only portions of certain countries sounds like the brainchild of people who attended elementary school at a Papa John's Pizza franchise. It's the mobile service providers we think are demonic baby-eaters, guys; the folks who manufacture devices are sweet, innocent multinational executives who attend Satanic mass only once or twice a year. Think about whom you're targeting.
But that's neither here, there, nor anywhere. The real issue is that two governing coneheads sat in the Forced Breach Pub and analyzed reams of evidence detailing malicious hacker attacks that exploit any platform vulnerability in order to cause mayhem, financial loss, and general sadness. They then presumably -- hopefully? -- took a swig of absinthe and decided the answer was to build a one-touch device destruction feature.