California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law on Monday requiring all smartphones sold in the state after July 2015 to feature an anti-theft technology called the “kill switch.” The new feature, which is expected to help reduce theft of smart devices, will allow users to remotely disable their handsets when they are stolen or lost.
Introduced in February, the SB-962 Smartphones bill was initially approved by the California senate assembly earlier this month. The new law requires smartphone manufacturers to offer software or hardware that will render a stolen or lost device unusable by an unauthorized user. The anti-theft technology, which will have to be activated when the device is initially set up by its owner, must also be reversible so that authorized users can unlock the device if it is returned to them.
Here is an excerpt from the bill:
This bill would require that any smartphone, as defined, that is manufactured on or after July 1, 2015, and sold in California after that date, include a technological solution at the time of sale, which may consist of software, hardware, or both software and hardware, that, once initiated and successfully communicated to the smartphone, can render inoperable the essential features, as defined, of the smartphone to an unauthorized user when the smartphone is not in the possession of an authorized user. The bill would require that the technological solution, when enabled, be able to withstand a hard reset, as defined, and prevent reactivation of the smartphone on a wireless network except by an authorized user.
According to Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, the “kill switch” initiative is aimed at addressing a “growing epidemic of smartphone theft in California.” In San Francisco, 67 percent of all robberies involve the theft of a mobile communications device, while in Oakland that number is as high as 75 percent, according to a statement by Leno.
“California has just put smartphone thieves on notice,” Leno said, in the statement. “Starting next year, all smartphones sold in California, and most likely every other state in the union, will come equipped with theft deterrent technology when they purchase new phones.”
Following introduction of the bill in February in California, four senators introduced a similar bill in the U.S. Congress, titled “The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act,” which could make the inclusion of a “kill switch” compulsory in smartphones sold across the country.
While smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (KRX:005930) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) will likely be affected by the bill, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) already incorporates a remote-locking feature called “Activation Lock” in iOS. The feature, which can lock an iPhone by connecting it to the user’s iCloud account, is activated when its "Find My iPhone" feature is enabled.
A large group of smartphone manufacturers and U.S. carriers, including Apple, Google Inc. (GOOGL), HTC America, Microsoft, Samsung, LG Electronics Inc. (KRX:066570), AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile US Inc (NYSE:TMUS), also have pledged to add anti-theft tools to all smartphones as part of a voluntary commitment with the CTIA, an industry association.