NL joins call for phone "kill switch"

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Dutch phone providers will likely be obligated to make stolen phone useless, starting January 1st, when a new law takes effect. The U.S.A. is working on a similar law, that will also take effect on the same date. Minister of Security and Justice, Ivo Opstelten, wants to present the new legislation to the House before the Summer, so it can take effect before January 1st.

Statistics from other countries show a drop in street robberies of about 20 percent after similar measures, according to the minister. The new legislation will compel providers to block the 15-digit IMEI code if the phone is stolen, a so-called kill switch. It renders the phone useless. Until now Dutch police did use the IMEI code to register the phone in a national database for stolen phones, and to bombard the phone with text messages, stating it's stolen and to report to the police. The measure prevents thieves from selling the phone. It also alerts providers not to sell a new subscription with that phone. With the kill switch the phone can not be used with a new SIM card. However, WIFI internet access is not affected by the kill switch and the phone can still be used in foreign countries that don't use the IMEI codes. The primary goal of the kill switch is to prevent thieves from accessing valuable information and phones can not be wiped and reused. There are already apps on the market that enable users to remotely lock their phones. Samsung has a similar feature, which most users declined, and Apple has an Activation Lock to remotely wipe the phone from another Apple product. The IMEI kill switch also has a downside. American phone providers warned hackers can wipe people's phones in a large-scale attack, leaving countless people with a useless phone.