ISRI takes position on electronic device activation locks

Association supports the ability to turn off activation locks, also known as “kill switches.”

August 11, 2014
Recycling Today Staff

iPhone device cell phone reuseThe Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington, has announced its official position on “kill switches” on electronic devices. The organization calls for recyclers to have the ability to turn off these activation locks on legitimate technological devices, thereby allowing them to be reused. In the current environment, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) hold the only keys needed to unlock or unkill these devices, ISRI says.

“As it stands now, OEMs have an unfair advantage in the marketplace as being the only ones with the ability to turn off a kill switch on a cellphone or other technological device,” says Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. “All device owners, whether they be recyclers or otherwise, should have the same ability to turn off the kill switch for the purpose of legitimately reusing these devices.”

ISRI members report that up to about 5 percent of cellphones purchased by recyclers and refurbishers are unable to be repaired or to re-enter the marketplace because the kill switch has been enabled.  ISRI says it expects this number to grow dramatically in 2015, as almost all new cellphones likely will contain kill switches.  Without access to disengage these devices, recyclers are unable to return nonstolen, good working devices back into the domestic and global marketplace.

The organization’s policy states: “ISRI supports voluntary and legislative efforts that provide device owners, including recyclers and refurbishers, with convenient and reasonable access to procedures and technology from telecommunication carriers and electronics manufacturers necessary to turn off or disengage any activation locks, “kill switches,” carrier locks or other locks for technological devices that are not stolen or lost in order to maximize the use, maintenance and reuse of such devices.”

Currently at the federal level, the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act (S. 2032/H.R. 4065) would require manufacturers to include remote deletion capability (i.e., kill switch software) in cellphones sold in the U.S. market. While ISRI says it supports efforts to protect consumers and deter theft, the bill does not provide qualified recyclers and refurbishers with reasonable access to ensure the cellphone is not stolen or to disenable such software, both of which are necessary to maximize the value of the cellphone and return it to the reuse market.