A bill that would require smartphone manufacturers to include software allowing owners of devices to activate a “kill switch” to shut down their phone if it is stolen has passed the California Senate. This is just the first step in a long legislative journey for this first of its kind in the country bill, as it must also be approved by the California Assembly and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.
The current version of bill under consideration only applies to smartphones made and sold after July 2015, and does not include tablets or other devices.
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Kill Switch engaged: Epidemic of thefts
According to California State Senator Mark Leno and the Associated Press, two-thirds of robberies in San Francisco today involve a smartphone being stolen, as do one out of four robberies in Oakland.
“We have a crime wave sweeping our state,” Leno stated bluntly. “These crimes are up at double-digit rates. We’re trying to keep our constituents safe on the streets.”
Providing yet more data attesting to the fact something needs to be done, mobile security firm Lookout published a study earlier this week reported nearly 10% of smartphones users in the U.S. have been robbed of their phone. Furthermore, Consumer Reports analyzed national crime statistics showing that more than 3.1 million Americans were victims of smartphone theft in 2013, more than double the smartphone theft rate for 2012.
Apple and Microsoft now support kill switch bill
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) had been united in their opposition of the legislation, claiming it would make phones more expensive and could potentially be abused. However, CNET is reporting that both companies have changed their minds and now support the California Senate bill.
Sen. Leno was quick to step up to the plate to congratulate the tech giants on their change of position. “I applaud Apple and Microsoft for breaking rank and dropping their opposition to SB 962, ignoring the false claim that this technology is unworkable,” Leno said.