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California lawmakers introduce a bill forcing mobile devices sold in the state to have a kill switch

Posted: , by Alan F.

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California lawmakers introduce a bill forcing mobile devices sold in the state to have a kill switch
The lawmakers in the state of California have introduced a bill that could reduce the number of smartphone thefts in the state. Introduced on Friday, the bill requires new smartphones and tablets sold in the state to come with something akin to a digital kill switch. This would allow a stolen device to be remotely bricked, thus making it worthless to any thieves.

New York City and San Francisco law enforcement officials have been the most vocal in trying to get phone and tablet manufacturers to build a kill switch into their devices. The stats are amazing. 50% of all robberies in San Francisco, and 75% in neighboring Oakland, are mobile related. In L.A., the number is rising. This has led to the introduction of California Senate bill 962 which states that all smartphones and tablets sold in the state starting January 1st 2015, need to have "a technological solution that can render the essential features of the device inoperable when the device is not in possession of the rightful owner."

The bill doesn't specifically mention a kill switch, and allows either the manufacturers or the carriers to provide the required software or hardware solution. The "switch" should prevent the device from making or taking calls, accessing the internet or running apps. The system will also be resistant to a hard reset, and while end users will have the option of deactivating it, retailers will not have that choice. In fact, retailers will be fined between $500 and $2500 for each device rung up that does not include the technology needed to remotely kill a smartphone or tablet. Private sellers of second hand units will not be covered by the bill.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon was one of the law enforcement officials present at the bill's introduction. This is a victory for Gascon and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Both have been dealing with large numbers of smartphone related crime and the pair have given smartphone manufacturers until this June to come up with a solution. Samsung told Gascon last year that it was preparing to add a kill switch on its handsets, but the idea was shot down by U.S. carriers. State Senator Mark Leno, one of the bill's sponsors, said that the wireless industry can either be part of the problem or part of the solution.

"With robberies of smartphones reaching an all-time high, California cannot continue to stand by when a solution to the problem is readily available. We are officially stepping in and requiring the cellphone industry to take the necessary steps to curb violent smartphone thefts and protect the safety of the very consumers they rely upon to support their businesses."-State Senator Mark Leno

If the bill becomes law, a kill switch could become a national feature on smartphones and tablets since most manufacturers do not want the added expense of producing a version of their devices just for California. Besides, on a national level, 1 out of every 3 robberies involves a mobile device according to the FCC. The agency also reports that in 2012, lost and stolen mobile phones cost consumers more than $30 billion.

source: AP, NetworkWorld via BGR

14 Comments
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posted on 08 Feb 2014, 02:20 5

1. chocowii (Posts: 327; Member since: 30 Jan 2014)


Just for fun, why not put a self destruct feature on all phones? That would be great! LOL!

posted on 08 Feb 2014, 02:31

2. Sparhawk (Posts: 75; Member since: 10 Mar 2012)


Hasn't Android and IOS included this feature in it for several versions now? Whether or not people USE it is a different story.

posted on 08 Feb 2014, 04:45 2

4. Ant34 (Posts: 193; Member since: 10 Aug 2013)


I would be hesitant to use to it. If I killed the phone and the phone is recovered then I might as well throw it in the garbage because it's useless to me.

posted on 08 Feb 2014, 09:35 2

5. johnehms09 (Posts: 49; Member since: 17 Jan 2014)


The purpose of this just letting snatcher to know that all stolen phone is useless.. If thats the case who will steal your phone now.. T

posted on 08 Feb 2014, 03:22 1

3. Reality_Check (Posts: 273; Member since: 15 Aug 2013)


Of course the bl**dy carriers will oppose a 'kill switch.' It's them that are losing their business :|

posted on 08 Feb 2014, 09:50 1

6. Augustine (Posts: 732; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)


Theft is already illegal, so this is less about crime than about sneaking a dictatorial feature. Imagine that America would let it happen here what's happened in Egypt, Tunisia and Ukraine where the people organized themselves to topple their petty tyrants using cell phones. If the switch exists, anyone can flip it.

posted on 08 Feb 2014, 09:58 5

7. mclifford81 (Posts: 68; Member since: 26 Jan 2010)


Yes let's give the government more power over our freedom. Good choice California. Oh wait I forget you also had the Terminator as your governor before. Remember how that movie turned out?

posted on 08 Feb 2014, 11:25 1

8. Joshing4fun (Posts: 1047; Member since: 13 Aug 2010)


I love the idea. That way people won't even bother trying to steal them anymore knowing they will be deactivated.

posted on 08 Feb 2014, 11:29 2

9. bigstrudel (Posts: 518; Member since: 20 Aug 2012)


Sounds familiar to me.

Syria shut down the internet to its citizens to curtail civilian uprisings. No communication = No resistance. And now the Govt', (Or anyone who hacks the system the kill switch is on) will be able to stop all long distance communication in California by flipping 2 switches.

If you don't want your Phone stolen....don't leave it places. Take it out of your pocket to use it, then put it back in your pocket when you're done. It's extremely simple. Treat the device like the half a grand its worth.

And let me keep my freedoms instead of the government babysitting people who cant take care of themselves or their belongings.

posted on 08 Feb 2014, 12:51

10. bigstrudel (Posts: 518; Member since: 20 Aug 2012)


On a side note. Disabling the Kill Switch may be a great reason to Root devices again :)

posted on 08 Feb 2014, 17:06 1

11. Dingy_cellar_dweller (Posts: 185; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


Kill switch = more sales.
Win win.

posted on 10 Feb 2014, 03:36

12. allenzhang (Posts: 5; Member since: 25 Jan 2014)


hoh, interesting

posted on 10 Feb 2014, 08:37 1

13. PhantomSectre (Posts: 5; Member since: 25 Sep 2011)


Right... the phone is stolen and the thieves simply reflash the phone with new firmware. So much for the kill switch idea, eh? You need software to operate the hardware. The kill switch would have to be operated with software. When software is involved, it's only a matter of time before they find a way around it. Look at iOS. Every time they "fix" iOS to prevent jailbreaking, the dev team finds a way around it.

posted on 10 Feb 2014, 09:14 1

14. tokuzumi (Posts: 289; Member since: 27 Aug 2009)


I can see a lot of eBay/CL ripoffs occurring because of this. Someone could sell their perfectly working phone, say it's stolen, and brick the new user's device. The new user would have basically 0 recourse, and could potentially be out hundreds of dollars. There would need to be some type of phone transfer documentation, like a car title, so something like this wouldn't happen. But that just leads to more gov't intervention, or some third party selling this service for some crazy fee.

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