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

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.


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

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