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There’s no question that cellphone theft is a huge problem, accounting for a significant and growing percentage of all robberies, especially in big cities.

However, a California bill introduced on Friday to mandate that cellphones be equipped with a “kill switch” is written so broadly that it could apply to a wide range of devices, even Wi-Fi-only tablets.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Mark Leno, is designed to require device makers to ensure that stolen devices can’t be reactivated. However, as written, the bill would appear to apply to some devices that typically are never activated in the first place, such as tablets without cellular connectivity or perhaps even products like the iPod touch.

The proposed law would regulate the sale of an “advanced mobile communications device,” which is defined as “an electronic device that is regularly hand held when operated that enables the user to engage in voice communications using mobile telephony service, Voice over Internet Protocol, or Internet Protocol enabled service … and to connect to the Internet, and includes what are commonly known as smartphones and tablets.”

A spokesman for Leno declined to comment on whether the bill was meant to apply to Wi-Fi tablets in addition to smartphones and tablets with cellphone connections.

Prosecutors globally have banded together, seeking to compel the industry to include tighter antitheft measures to stem the rising tide of smartphone theft.

One of the challenges of theft reduction measures is that they have to be broad enough and widespread enough that it reduces the market for stolen devices to a degree that would-be thieves decide that the phones and tablets aren’t worth stealing.

Apple, for its part, has included an optional “activation lock” feature in iOS 7 that allows iPhone and iPad owners to prevent a device from being reactivated without the owner’s permission. Apple’s implementation actually does work even on non-cellular-equipped devices. However, many Android tablets don’t connect to a central server and, in some cases, don’t ever connect to the Internet, making implementation of a kill switch tricky.

Even in the cellphone industry, support for a kill switch has been tepid. Rather than back a kill switch, the U.S. cellular industry trade group CTIA has been touting its support for a database of stolen cellphones that carriers both here and potentially abroad could use to decide which devices should not be activated. T-Mobile, meanwhile, has bucked the trend, saying it is willing to support kill-switch legislation as long as proper safeguards are in place.


We don't need that as much as we need a Speed Governor for phones.

Whenever the device is moving and in a car and on a street at say more than 15 MPH it cannot make a call, send a text, or receive them.

This would stop the highest growing cause of traffic accidents today.

Want to make a call or send a text? Simple, pull over.

There are many details, I know. Like what about emergencies, and how to differentiate between passengers and drivers. Figure it out. I can't think of everything!


This is nothing more than a government power grab, disguised as "protection." Anyone who believes that this is simply for the benefit of the people hasn't been paying a lot of attention over the last year or so.


While I understand the intent of the law, it's too often that someone else is forced to do something that I should be doing.  Why do they need to worry about my device being stolen. 

I pay a lot of money for my tech stuff.  I damn better well have a way to protect it.  I use every option on my iPhone and iPad so that if it does get stolen, it's pretty useless for anything other than parts.  But I don't need the state or federal government to assume that I don't know how to keep my hands on my devices.  

Users need to stop being stupid, leaving their devices laying around.  Keep track of what you own people and take advantage of the safety and security settings that your device and your provider offer you. You shouldn't need someone else doing it for you.


And if these laws pass ... Here come the smartphone chop shops.

This is a stupid law that gives the government too much power and will not stop theft. When even a non-functioning iPhone can get hundreds of dollars on eBay and parting out an iPhone will sometimes get more cash then a working iPhone a kill-switch won't stop theft, it will just make unloading the stolen phone a little more difficult.

The industry is taking care of this right now. This law is not needed.


@Bahmani  what if you're a passenger? or using a map function? 


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