Smartphone “Kill Switch” Bill Passes California Legislature, Awaits Governor’s Signature
Composite image by Re/code
A California bill that would require cellphone makers to install a “kill switch” to render stolen devices inoperable has passed the state legislature, and now moves to the governor’s office for consideration.
The bill won Senate approval Monday by a vote of 27-8. If Governor Jerry Brown signs the bill, it would be among the first such laws in the nation (Minnesota has adopted a similar anti-theft requirement).
An earlier version of the “kill switch” bill died in the Senate this spring, amid criticism that its language was so broad it would have imposed the requirement on a number of devices beyond smartphones.
Several device manufacturers and wireless carriers withdrew their opposition once the bill was amended to exclude tablets and exempt smartphone models introduced before Jan. 1, 2015, that could not “reasonably be re-engineered” to incorporate the anti-theft technology.
If the bill is signed into law, manufacturers will have until July 1, 2015, to incorporate the theft deterrent, which users would be asked to turn on when they set up their new devices.
State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced the bill to address the epidemic of smartphone thefts, which the Federal Communications Commission estimates to account for 30 percent to 40 percent of thefts in major cities.
In San Francisco, more than half of all robberies in 2012 involved the theft of a mobile device, according to the city district attorney’s office.
“Our goal is to swiftly take the wind out of the sails of thieves who have made the theft of smartphones one of the most prevalent street crimes in California’s big cities,” Leno said in a statement.
Amid heightened concerns about smartphone theft, several key players in the industry took steps to address the problem ahead of legislation.
The five largest U.S. cellular carriers and key device manufacturers — including Apple, Google and Samsung — pledged to incorporate an anti-theft feature that would remotely wipe data from a smartphone and render it inoperable. Lost or stolen devices could later be restored if recovered.