News Column

California Assembly OKs smartphone 'kill switch' bill

August 7, 2014

By Tracy Seipel, San Jose Mercury News



Aug. 07--SACRAMENTO -- A bill requiring all smartphones sold in California to come pre-equipped with theft-deterring technology, known as a "kill switch" that renders the device useless if stolen, passed the Assembly Thursday morning.

Senate Bill 962, authored by Senator Mark Leno and sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney George GascÓn, moved forward on a 53-20 vote and now returns to the Senate -- which has already passed it -- for a vote on Assembly amendments.

If it gets the green light there, it will go to Gov. Jerry Brown. If he signs the bill, it would mandate that all new smartphones sold in the state beginning next July be pre-equipped with a kill switch.

"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, D-San Francisco, said in a prepared statement.

"This legislation will literally stop smartphone thieves in their tracks," he said, "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."

Consumer Reports recently revealed that smartphone crime has doubled nationwide in the last year. About 3.1 million devices were stolen in 2013, up from 1.6 million in 2012. Based on those numbers, a Creighton University study estimates that mandatory kill switches on smartphones would save consumers more than $3 billion.

"No one should be in fear of being mugged or robbed just because they are using their cell phones," Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who co-sponsored the bill with Leno, said in a statement. "Today's Assembly vote in support of SB 962, the kill switch bill, is a victory for consumer safety."

The bill is supported by statewide law enforcement groups, including the California District Attorneys Association, California Police Chiefs Association and California Sheriffs Association. In addition, wireless industry companies including Apple, AT&T, Blackberry, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Verizon have all removed their opposition to the bill.

The Wireless Association (CTIA) announced early this year that it would "voluntarily" implement theft-deterrent technology on new phones starting in 2015, an inadequate solution because the technology would not be pre-equipped on phones. Consumers would have to find, download and activate the solution themselves, leaving thieves an open door to continue to target all smartphone users.

Under SB 962, retailers will be prohibited from selling smart phones in California unless they come pre-equipped with theft-deterring technology. Consumers would have the opportunity to opt-out of using this technology. Companies that fail to comply with the bill would be subject to penalty.

Brown has not indicated whether he will sign the bill into law.

Check back for more details on this breaking story.

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(c)2014 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)


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