Smartphone “Kill Switch” Law now Official in California

by Istvan Fekete on August 26, 2014

Since yesterday, California has been the first state in the US to require smartphone manufacturers to implement and enable antitheft security features by default in every smartphone sold in the state. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the so-called kill switch bill introduced by State Sen. Mark Leno and sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.

The bill was first introduced in February and passed into state legislature earlier this month. The kill switch allows the smartphone owner to lock down a phone if it is stolen, making it inoperable.

Actually, California isn’t the first state to have such a kill switch bill: Minnesota passed a similar bill in May, but smartphone manufacturers aren’t required to enable the switch by default, an essential distinction between the two bills.

“Opt-in does not end the problem. Because it will not be ubiquitous,” said Leno on the Senate floor in April, the first time the bill was presented. The idea is that if thieves expect the software to be enabled on all phones, they won’t bother stealing them in the first place. After a heated debate, the legislation narrowly failed its first go-around but passed after a second try two weeks later.

The law addresses a phenomenon that government officials have called an “epidemic” of smartphone theft. To put that into numbers, one in 10 smartphone owners in the US has had a phone stolen, according to mobile security firm Lookout. Last year alone, more than 3 million Americans were victims of smartphone theft, double the number in 2012.

Although there were voices about implementing such kill switches in tablets as well, the law will apply only to smartphones sold in the state of California after July 1, 2015. There will be a penalty of up to $2,500 for the “knowing retail sale” of each phone not complying with the law.

With iOS 7, Apple introduced Activation Lock, a feature that makes a stolen iPhone or iPad harder to use, as it requires the (previous) user’s Apple ID and password to turn off the phone’s location tracking featuring or to reactivate the locked device.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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