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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14 Comments

1. chocowii

Posts: 478; Member since: Jan 30, 2014

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

2. Sparhawk

Posts: 75; Member since: Mar 10, 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.

4. Ant34

Posts: 193; Member since: Aug 10, 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.

5. johnehms09

Posts: 50; Member since: Jan 17, 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

3. Reality_Check

Posts: 277; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

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

6. Augustine

Posts: 1043; Member since: Sep 28, 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.

7. mclifford81

Posts: 90; Member since: Jan 26, 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?

8. Joshing4fun

Posts: 1250; Member since: Aug 13, 2010

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

9. bigstrudel

Posts: 621; Member since: Aug 20, 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.

10. bigstrudel

Posts: 621; Member since: Aug 20, 2012

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

11. Dingy_cellar_dweller

Posts: 339; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Kill switch = more sales. Win win.

12. allenzhang

Posts: 5; Member since: Jan 25, 2014

hoh, interesting

13. PhantomSectre

Posts: 9; Member since: Sep 25, 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.

14. tokuzumi

Posts: 1961; Member since: Aug 27, 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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