This would be US jurisdiction, say NYC.

Note this is a question about the law only; not a question about technical feasibility.

  • Could Apple or Google of their own volition legally shut down functionality of users' phone, say photo or video capabilities?
  • Could Verizon or T-Mobile legally do this as well?

If so, under what circumstances could a provider take such an action?

  • Could providers be ordered to take such an action, say under a declared state of emergency?
  • Could the state order providers to push updates that halt functionality of users' phones?

Have these scenarios already made it into law or into courtrooms?

Are phones owned, or just licensed to use, and does this change legality of above actions?

  • 1
    "Could providers be ordered to take such an action, say under a declared state of emergency?" This one is an easy yes (e.g. to preserve scarce bandwidth in the system due to emergency casualties to cell phone towers). It has been done before in natural disasters, although possibly not in the U.S. But, in other contexts I'd have to think it through and will look into it more before answering.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 22, 2022 at 14:33
  • @ohwilleke The most curious aspect is where Google or Apple take their own initiative shutting down photos or videos or some other phone functionality. I could see different nation states perhaps requiring this feature in users phones at some point in the future. e.g. Within a defined classified government area, phones no longer take photos.
    – paulj
    Jul 23, 2022 at 20:37
  • A lot will depend on circumstances. Your contract with a mobile phone service provider like Verizon will include some situations in which the company can shut down your service (usually temporarily) - this might include technical problems, requests by the state, and situations where your actions pose a threat to the network. They may also specify compensation in some cases when a service is unavailable. If you're using your phone for criminal purposes (however defined), the government can almost certainly stop you using it, using a variety of methods.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 25, 2022 at 13:32
  • 2
    There is a difference between shutting down a service (e.g. disabling calls on a network, disabling video streaming, preventing you visiting a particular website), and shutting down functionality that does not require network services (e.g. preventing your phone taking a photo). Networks have a lot of discretion over the former, not so much the latter.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 25, 2022 at 13:34


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