Gov. Brown signs bill requiring cellphone 'kill switches'

A new law would require kill switches on phones made in the state to prevent thefts

Gov. Jerry Brown and California lawmakers addressed technology's dark side Monday, with Brown approving a requirement for "kill switches'' on smartphones and legislators requesting new protection for victims of revenge porn and identity theft.

A proposed statewide-ban on single-use plastic bags failed to pass the state Assembly, a serious blow to one of the most hotly contested issues before the Legislature as its two-year session draws to a close. The bill, SB 270 by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), could be brought up for another vote before lawmakers adjourn Sunday.


Smart phones: An article in the LATExtra section on Aug. 26 about a new law requiring "kill switches" on cellphones said it applies to devices made in California. The new law applies to phones sold in California. —

Brown signed into law a first-in-the-nation mandate that smartphones made in California eventually be equipped with technology allowing their owners to remotely render them useless if stolen.

Law enforcement leaders, including Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon, pushed for the legislation in response to a spate of violent cellphone thefts, hoping it would serve as a deterrent.

"California has just put smart phone thieves on notice," said Sen. Mark Leno, the San Francisco Democrat who introduced the bill. "Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb this crime of convenience, which is fueling street crime and violence within our communities."

The measure, SB 962, applies to phones made after July 1, 2015, to allow the industry time to adjust. The legislation was opposed by some industry groups who argued that phone manufacturers already were taking steps to improve security.

"State by state technology mandates, such as this one, stifle those benefits and are detrimental to wireless consumers," said Jamie Hastings, an executive for the cellphone industry organization known as CTIA.

Lawmakers sent Brown legislation to close a loophole in the state law prohibiting revenge porn — the distribution of sexually explicit photographs of someone without their consent. The new proposal, SB 1255 by Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), would expand the law to include "selfies" — photographs people take of themselves.

"As technology evolves, it is important that government act to protect our citizens from new types of crime, such as revenge porn," Cannella said.

A second measure would allow victims of revenge porn to seek a restraining order in civil court to have the offending pictures removed from the Internet. A victim could also seek damages.

"Sen. Cannella has done a wonderful job on the criminal side.... I said, let's do something with the civil side and just get the pictures down," said Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), author of the second bill, AB 2643.

In response to major consumer data breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus and other retail chains, lawmakers also passed a bill to require businesses that are the source of the breach to provide identity theft protection to all potential victims.

The coverage required under the legislation would be free to customers for a minimum of 12 months if the leaked financial information included Social Security and driver's license numbers. The bill, AB 1710, was sponsored by Assemblymen Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) and Wieckowski.

Lawmakers also sent to the governor bills that would:

  • Direct the state Department of Veterans Affairs to build a new veterans cemetery in Orange County, on the former U.S. Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. The bill, AB 1453, was sponsored by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton).
  • Crack down on hit-and-run accidents in California. The bill, AB 2337 sponsored by Assemblyman Eric Linder (R-Corona), would extend from one year to two the time that a driver's license would be revoked after a motorist causes a hit-and-run accident that results in serious injury or death.
  • Require baby-changing stations in men's restrooms if they are provided in the women's restrooms of new buildings or those being substantially renovated, or require a changing station in a family restroom available to both men and women. Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said his legislation, SB 1350, would help make sure that men taking care of babies have clean places to change diapers. "We hear horror stories all the time of men having to change their babies' diapers on floors of public restrooms, in the back of their cars and on restaurant tables," Lara said. "This bill will make sure that parents have access to baby changing stations so that they can change diapers in a safe and sanitary manner."

Meanwhile, Brown signed into law legislation to encourage the state education board to include the 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama in the state's social studies curriculum. The bill, AB 1912, was sponsored by Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), who said it "underscores the importance of his presidency — the historic nature of it."

The governor vetoed a measure by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) that would have required every report submitted to the Legislature by a state agency to include a statement signed by the head of the agency that the contents of the report were true, accurate and complete. DeSaulnier said his bill was in response to what he characterized as incomplete or inaccurate reports by the California Department on Transportation on problems with the construction of the Bay Bridge in Northern California.

In his veto message, Brown said SB 1337 would "likely impede communications between the executive branch and the Legislature."

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