Smartphone “kill switch” bill falls in the California legislature

Smartphone “kill switch” bill falls in the California legislature
By a narrow 19 to 17 vote, the California State Senate failed to move legislation that would have mandated manufacturers to begin incorporating anti-theft software on devices that were sold in California.

State Senator Mark Leno, who is one of the sponsors of the bill, introduced in February, said, “The game is not yet over,” and he plans to bring the bill up for debate and a vote next week.

The bill needed 21 votes in favor to continue through the legislative process. Senator Leno’s office put out a statement, “This technology exists, and until it is pre-enabled on every new phone purchased, consumers will continue to be the innocent victims of thieves who bank on the fact that these devices can be resold at a profit on the black market.”

The technology referred to amounts to what is a kill switch. Something that would enable the ability to render a device useless before it is sold off on the very vibrant black market. According to Consumer Reports, smartphone theft doubled between 2012 and 2013, at a cost of about $2.5 billion to consumers.

Those that opposed the bill cited the costs to the industry, but it was a bit more than that. California’s economy is arguably over-regulated already, and invoking rules on technology used around the world that would affect only California is seen as “over-mandating” and risks pushing technology sector companies out of the state – the very companies that have proven critical to the state’s economic health. Other arguments against the bill were downright weak though, such as the concern of a black market for the parts of the devices themselves.

The four major carriers have been the most notable obstacles to the legislation, though with valid concerns about the effect of a “kill switch” bill on consumers – making them targets of hacking. CTIA and the carriers ended up supporting a “baseline anti-theft tool” by the time the vote came around.

Then there was the legislative process itself. The bill was amended heavily from its original form. The mandate shifted from taking effect on devices sold on or after January 1, 2015 to only devices manufactured on or after July 1, 2015. Then the bill was weakened from including smartphones and tablets to including only smartphones.

Since the push for a kill switch started to gain real traction over the past year, other states have been considering their own rules on the matter. On so many issues though, not just technology, California is considered a bit of a bellwether for how other laws may be shaped across the United States.

source: CNET

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26 Comments

1. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

AT&T actually can do this with their own phones now. Makes the phone useless. Plus, with Android, you can remotely wipe a phone, and I believe you can do that with the other OSes. Leave it to California to make this mandatory - heck, we already have mandatory high pricing on our oil/gasoline, and they raised the annual tax on car ownership.

4. shuaibhere

Posts: 1986; Member since: Jul 07, 2012

Remotely wiping data wouldn't stop theft.... But killing phone would...

19. Teja171 unregistered

Areh bhai, be careful. Ek chuteah user papasmurf tereku flag karkey yeh site se nikal deh saktha hai .Woh madarchod merku doh bar mera account nikal wa diya.

10. Ashoaib

Posts: 3269; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

This is a good bill, it will prevent roberry, stealing, theft of phones which is going higher and higher with time... if there will be a firmware, hard to hack then ofcourse stolen phones will not have a value to be sold in black market

2. 0xFFFF

Posts: 3806; Member since: Apr 16, 2014

A little bit of resistance to complete government control over all telecommunications. Surprising.

3. mturby unregistered

not fair that someone pays over $400 for a phone, and some smartphone theft steals it to buy meth or pay for a hooker. count me on senator!

6. 0xFFFF

Posts: 3806; Member since: Apr 16, 2014

Lots of things are stolen, but it seems only phones need remote kill?

8. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

Out of many things that are stolen....how many would even need this? Think about that for a minute....

15. 0xFFFF

Posts: 3806; Member since: Apr 16, 2014

It depends on how far and how fast you want to go towards facism. If we are a society of decent, thoughtful people, then we need to do something about the root cause of the problem. This root cause is the rich having too much and the poor having too little. In other words, wealth and income inequality. Adding yet another layer of Orwellian control over people and possessions doesn't help the root cause. It only gives the wealthy more reason to keep stealing from the poor, which lends itself to even greater levels of totalitarian control over society. So maybe you should think about it. If you are wealthy and love spending money on totalitarian control systems vs. education, then sure, vote for this "remote kill" fascist rubbish. If not, vote against it.

26. rallyguy

Posts: 620; Member since: Mar 13, 2012

People need to help themselves first. The vast majority of people don't even have a security lock screen turn on.

13. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

And some cars have a kill switch device too.

5. anirudhshirsat97

Posts: 408; Member since: May 24, 2011

I feel kill switch should be mandatory. Mission impossible style self destructing phones would be even better.

11. Ashoaib

Posts: 3269; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

Yeah, thats a good idea... phone should be preloaded with dynamite... :p

14. Neo_Huang

Posts: 1067; Member since: Dec 06, 2013

Just overcharge your battery.

16. 0xFFFF

Posts: 3806; Member since: Apr 16, 2014

Samsung will make billions making their dynamite removable... wait they already have! :)

7. mattkl

Posts: 255; Member since: Feb 01, 2010

I remember the issues T-Mobile had with one of the sidekicks I believe. The Danger system that stored contacts was compromised and a lot of sidekicks lost all of their contacts. Imagine if the kill switch system malfunctioned for one or more carriers/regions. Hopefully if they implement a system like this, the results can be easily reversed in case unknown issues arise.

9. Napalm_3nema

Posts: 2236; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

I'm glad this failed. The telecoms and the government do not need access to this kind of power. I consider this a civil liberties issue because I should get to choose how, when, and why my property is "killed" or wiped, and there is no way the wrong people (government) wouldn't have access to these functions.

12. Planterz

Posts: 2120; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

Effing California. At least they (barely) got this one right. Too much government sticking their nose into things, too much watchdogging, too much BS.

17. thealphageek1

Posts: 942; Member since: Feb 02, 2013

Buy a BlackBerry. Use "BlackBerry Protect". Problem solved.

20. Teja171 unregistered

Madarchod. Lanjakodaka ne gudda balisindha ra saley.

21. thealphageek1

Posts: 942; Member since: Feb 02, 2013

English, please. I've no idea what you just you st said in response to my comment. It could be something very negative.

22. Teja171 unregistered

I meant that I'm seeing you after a long time. Why did you take it in a negative way ?

23. thealphageek1

Posts: 942; Member since: Feb 02, 2013

Sorry. Didn't understand what you had written. I've been on mini-vacation. Sometimes you have to unwind and unplug from it all, y'know? But I'm back and raring to go!

25. Teja171 unregistered

Its okay bro.

18. thealphageek1

Posts: 942; Member since: Feb 02, 2013

Also, I thought iOS offered a similar feature?

24. garyII

Posts: 160; Member since: Feb 26, 2014

is that a S2 physical button on an Ipod Touch old version ?

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