A “kill switch” in all smartphones

A  kill switch  in all smartphones

By Christian Bautista

A bill that requires a “kill switch” in all smartphones sold in California has been approved in the state’s assembly.

A kill switch is a function in mobile phones that makes a device useless once it is stolen or lost. The law would require all smartphones made after July 1, 2015 to have the feature.

The legislation, which was proposed by Senator Mark Leno, has garnered the support of law enforcement organizations such as the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Sheriffs Association. The bill, which is also known as SB 962, initially received opposition from companies such as Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Google and AT&T, but the firms have since reversed their position on the matter.

“Today’s vote on the Assembly floor is a huge victory for California’s smartphone consumers and mobile users across the nation who are regularly victimized for their cell phones,” Leno, a Democrat who represents San Francisco, said in a press release.

“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. 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.”

According to Consumer Reports, the number of crimes related to smartphones almost doubled across the country last year, going from 1.6 million stolen devices in 2012 to 3.1 million phones in 2013. The supporters of kill switches claim that the feature not only reduces crime, it also produces savings for mobile phone users. A recent study conducted by Creighton University claims that the inclusion of kill switches in mobile phones would translate to more than $3 billion in savings for consumers.

According to Leno, smartphone theft is especially virulent in his state. Mobile phones were said to be a factor in 65 percent of all robberies committed in San Francisco. In Oakland, the situation is said to be worse, with smartphones figuring in 75 percent of robberies. The trend is also said to be growing in Los Angeles, with mobile phone robberies rising by 30 percent since 2011.

Leno’s legislation still needs to clear a concurrence vote on amendments in the state’s assembly. If it passes, the bill will end up in the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, who may sign it into law.