Ben Levitan, Telecom Expert, on California Cell Phone Law: Kill Switch Useless and Dangerous to Liberty


Los Angeles, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 03/13/2014 -- The brainchild of State Senator Mark Leno, a new proposal in California would require all phones to come with a “kill switch” to be sold in the State of California after January 1, 2015. It also must contain an opt-out, rather than opt-in feature. Telecom expert Ben Levitan calls the plan useless and dangerous to the fundamentals of American liberty.

“Well, first off, the ability to kill a phone has existed since 1988. Every time a call is made, the phone network checks the serial number of the phone to ensure the user is a not using a cloned or stolen phone, and they also ensure the phone is compatible with the network. Once the phone’s serial number is on this black list, the phone turns into a brick,” says Levitan, who holds over 30 patents in the telecom industry. “And, if you don’t think they can control it, just stop paying your phone bill. See how fast they redirect every call made to the collections department.”

Capabilities even allow the phone companies to trace a cell phone to a 100 foot radius when it is in service. “They say this law is designed to stop theft and burglaries, but the technology already exists. This law is simply dangerous,” says Levitan. One question he poses: who controls the kill switch? “Are we going to allow the government control over the entire communications network? Whose finger is going to be on this button? With the NSA scandals surrounding our government, in addition to other forms of privacy breaches, are we really going to give this tremendous trust to the government? Imagine all the possible uses of such a kill switch,” he says.

The government isn’t the only party with whom to be concerned. “Hackers, thieves… do we want these folks to have easier access to our telecom systems? Installing the kill switch only tempts thieves to find a way around it, and it allows hackers the ability to gain easier access to our systems.”

9-1-1 functionality is another concern. Since 1994, 9-1-1 usage has been guaranteed. Stolen or with unpaid bills, 9-1-1 calls still are routed through the network free of charge. “When the FCC made a distinction between emergency phone calls, I went to work on the technology invention used to bring the industry into compliance, and because landlines work differently than cell phones, 9-1-1 even knows the location of the call, within 100 feet. That technology design was put into the network, not within each phone. So, by turning the phone into a brick, California is really taking 9-1-1 functionality out of the picture. The proposal coming from California does nothing to prevent cell phone theft, but it does pose a severe threat to privacy and may actually put people in danger by disallowing such a critical function as 9-1-1 service,” Levitan explains.

About Ben Levitan
Ben Levitan is known for his hard-hitting analysis and is a top contributor on Nancy Grace and other cable news shows as an expert in the telecommunications industry. He has served as an expert in countless federal and state court proceedings and holds 30 patents, including one on advanced wiretap.

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