Bill mandating 'kill switch' on smartphones is sent to governor

A bill that would require smartphones sold in Calif. to have a 'kill switch' goes to the governor

A bill that would mandate that smartphones sold in California be equipped with a “kill switch” that would render them useless if stolen was given final legislative approval by the state Senate on Monday.

The measure, which next goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration, would require mobile phones made after July 1, 2015, to include a feature allowing owners to remotely render them inoperable, if lost or stolen, as a deterrent to theft.

Law enforcement officials including LAPD Chief Charlie Beck support the bill as a method to address a surge in sometimes-violent robberies of cellphones by thieves who plan to resell them.

“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 biggest cities,” said Sen. Mark Leno (San Francisco), the author of the bill.

Smartphone makers initially had concerns with the measure, but most dropped their opposition after tablet computers were exempted and the effective date was delayed. 

SB 962 is still opposed by the CTIA, a wireless industry group that said legislation is unnecessary because manufacturers have volunteered to pursue anti-theft measures.

The state Senate vote was 27-8 with some Republicans opposed.

Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Rocklin) voted for the measure, predicting it will relieve the caseload of police agencies handling cellphone thefts “so they can focus on more important crimes.” 

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