California Could Be First with Smartphone 'Kill Switch' Law
The state of California could become the first in the U.S. to require smartphones to be sold with a "kill switch" that owners can deploy if their devices are stolen. A proposed law for such anti-theft technology passed the California Assembly on Monday, and is awaiting signature by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Authored by state Sen. Mark Leno, the legislation is aimed at the "growing epidemic of smartphone theft."
According to the text of Senate Bill 962, 113 smartphones are lost or stolen every minute in the U.S. Thefts of such devices in Los Angeles alone rose by 12 percent in 2012, and crime data from San Francisco shows more than half of all robberies involves the theft of a phone.
In a statement issued prior to Monday's vote, Leno noted the proposed law would "literally stop smartphone thieves in their tracks by ensuring all new smartphones sold in California come pre-enabled with theft-deterrent technology. With law enforcement agencies reporting a drop in thefts of phones that already provide kill switches to their customers, it is clear that this is an idea whose time has come."
Growing Voluntary Anti-Theft Tech
Several smartphone companies already offer -- or plan to add -- kill-switch technology for their users. For example, Apple's free Find My iPhone app already allows owners whose phone is missing to locate their device on a map, remotely lock their device or wipe data to protect their personal information.
Google and Microsoft have also announced plans to improve anti-theft measures for their phones. In June, Microsoft said it had committed to the CTIA Wireless Association's voluntary anti-theft pledge and would offer kill-switch capabilities as an update for all its phones running Windows Phone 8.0 and up. Other companies that have made similar commitments include Asurion, AT&T, Google (Android), HTC America, Huawei Device USA, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon Wireless and ZTE USA.
Under the CTIA trade association's voluntary commitment, phone companies agree to support anti-theft features for their devices at no added cost to consumers by July 2015.
The CTIA has said it is opposed to mandated kill-switch legislation, arguing that it doesn't support a "one size fits all" approach. However, a number of companies that have signed the organization's voluntary pledge have since gone on the record stating that they do not oppose the California legislation.
Opponents Cite 'Industry Uniformity'
We reached out to the CTIA for a response to the latest action in California, and received an e-mail response quoting Jamie Hastings, the organization's vice president for external and state affairs.
California's action, Hastings wrote, was "unnecessary given the breadth of action the industry has taken." He cited the CTIA's work to not only promote voluntary anti-theft measures, but to roll out stolen-phone databases, encourage development of anti-theft apps and lead consumer education campaigns.
State-by-state mandates are "detrimental to wireless consumers," Hastings noted, adding that the CTIA is urging the California governor to not sign the latest legislation in the interest of "uniformity in the wireless industry."
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, a spokesman for Brown said the governor has declined to comment on the proposed law before deciding whether to sign it.
Posted: 2014-08-14 @ 5:47pm PT
California could be second, because Minnesota is first.