California Close to Mandating Smartphone Kill Switches

The California Assembly approved legislation requiring new smartphones to have a kill switch.

by / August 8, 2014

California is one step closer to potentially derailing the rate of smartphone theft in the state.

The State Assembly approved a measure that requires all new smartphones to be equipped with a kill switch to make the device inoperable if lost or stolen. Senate Bill 962, authored by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, passed on a 53-20 vote earlier this week, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The Senate previously voted in favor of the bill, but it must go before them again so lawmakers can approve amendments before shuttling it over to Gov. Jerry Brown for his consideration. Brown is expected to sign the legislation.

If it becomes law, all new smartphones sold in California must be pre-equipped with kill switches by July 2015.

“This legislation will literally stop smartphone thieves in their tracks by ensuring all new smartphones sold in California come pre-enabled with theft-deterrent technology,” Leno said in a statement. “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.”

Leno’s office reports that SB 962 is “universally supported” by a number of statewide law enforcement associations, including the California District Attorneys Association, California Police Chiefs Association and California Sheriffs Association. A press release notes that various wireless industry companies including Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Verizon have removed their opposition to the bill.

CTIA – The Wireless Association, which represents a majority of the wireless carriers, said in a statement that it has already taken action to give consumers tools and information to help deter smartphone theft, including stolen phone databases, consumer education campaigns and other anti-theft measures.

“[The] passage of SB 962 by the California Assembly was unnecessary given the breadth of action the industry has taken,” said Jamie Hastings, vice president, external and state affairs for CTIA, in a statement. “Uniformity in the wireless industry created tremendous benefits for wireless consumers, including lower costs and phenomenal innovation. State-by-state technology mandates, such as this one, stifle those benefits and are detrimental to wireless consumers."

-- Brian Heaton