In a Scientific American column Jonathan Zittrain makes the case for kill switches in military weaponry.
“The simplest way to use a kill switch would be to place it in the hands of the weapons’ original recipients. With a kill switch, the current Iraqi government could disable the bristling trophies of ISIS’s post-Mosul parade, or the embattled Libyan government could secure jetliners from taking off on terrorist missions from the overrun airport in Tripoli. A more radical use of a kill switch would be to leave it in the hands of the weapons-providing government. This would turn weaponry into a service rather than a product. Many arms purchasers would no doubt turn elsewhere, but others might find the U.S. to be the only willing source. Some arms deals, including deals between the U.S. and Israel, have already been subject to agreed-on limitations. A kill switch would represent a more powerful enforcement mechanism.”
At Gizmodo, Adam Clark Estes responds:
“In fact, a type of kill switch does exist, but it was developed back in 1949. In decades since, the Department of Defense has been working on implementing better kill switches, and DARPA’s even commissioned IBM to build self-destructing chips. We’re not nearly at a place where it’s practical, though. A European chip maker built a kill switch into its microprocessors a few years ago; in 2007, Israeli jets exploited it to bomb Syria. You can only imagine how nervous that incident made the American researchers working on building similar technologies. Until we reach zero margin of error, it’s not going to happen.”