Legislation Requiring Anti-Theft Technology on Smart-Phones Fails to Pass Senate

April 25, 2014 17:00 pm · 30 comments

Legislation that would require smartphones to come equipped with an anti-theft deterrent known as a “kill switch” failed to pass the state Senate today.

SB 962, co-authored by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and strongly supported by law enforcement including San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, needed 21 votes to pass but received only 19 in a vote today on the senate floor, according to proponents.

However, the bill, which met with opposition from the cell phone and insurance industries, has been granted reconsideration and could be brought back for a vote before the end of May.

Leno said he remained hopeful that legislators will see the need for the bill, which would be the first law of its kind in the country if it passed. The kill switch, which allows phone owners to remotely wipe and lock a stolen phone, is intended to deter cell phone thefts by making them difficult to resell and reuse.

“Smart phone thefts have doubled nationwide in the past year, largely because the wireless industry has refused to implement existing, theft-deterrent technology that would render all phones useless if stolen,” Leno said.

Gascon called the vote “disheartening” and said the 17 legislators who voted against the bill were choosing to protect industry profits over the safety of their constituents.

“This technology already exists, but it needs to be deployed in a way which doesn’t rely on consumers to seek out the solutions and turn them on,” Gascon said. “That’s all this legislation does, it takes existing technology and makes it a standard feature on all smart phones.”

The bill is inspired by a rising epidemic of smart phone thefts that Leno has called a public safety crisis. Consumer Reports announced earlier this month that 3.1 million American consumers were victims of smart phone thefts in 2013, a figure that is nearly double those reported for 2012.

More than 50 percent of all robberies in San Francisco involve the theft of a mobile phone, a rate that rises to 75 percent in Oakland, Leno said when he announced the legislation in February.

Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb was among those decrying the bill’s failure today, saying the state senate “did a dumb thing today.”

“As an Oakland local elected officials and the victim of an armed robbery, I know that if and when this bill becomes law, it will reduce armed robberies in Oakland and throughout the state,” Kalb said.

Under the bill, all smart phones sold starting on Jan. 1, 2015, would come pre-equipped with theft-deterring technology that renders the phone useless if stolen. Consumers would have the choice to opt out of the kill switch.

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, a wireless industry group, has opposed the legislation, saying it would limit consumer choice and industry innovation, and invite hackers to exploit legislated protection solutions.

Earlier this month, the CTIA announced a competing, voluntary anti-theft initiative calling for all new phones to come with a preloaded or downloadable baseline anti-theft system capable of remotely locking and wiping a phone.

However, proponents of SB 962 say the voluntary anti-theft measures are opt-in, rather than opt-out, and rely on consumers to take extra steps to protect themselves.

Supporters of the kill switch have argued that the industry actually makes money off of cell phone thefts and has a financial incentive to allow them to continue.

Leno has said the replacement of lost and stolen smartphones and tablets is a $30 billion business in the United States, and the nation’s four biggest wireless carriers make around $7.8 billion on theft and loss insurance products.

A report released in March by Creighton University business Professor William Duckworth found that a kill switch could save Americans up to $2.6 billion a year. That estimate included around $58 million spent per year replacing stolen phones, and $4.8 billion for cell phone insurance.

{ 30 comments }

1 Why do ... April 25, 2014 at 5:13 PM

we need Gov. interference, the free market
will take care of the problem.
Honest person gets cell phone stolen, goes out
and buys another. Crook steals cell phone, gets
cell service, every ones a winner, right!

2 Atticus Thraxx April 25, 2014 at 5:24 PM

The one possible piece of legislation that might actually be useful to me doesn’t pass. Yeah, that’s about right.

3 TinFoiler April 25, 2014 at 5:43 PM

“However, the bill, which met with opposition from the cell phone and insurance industries”.
Ah ha ha ha ha ha ~ You’ve GOT to be joking!?!?
Another way to say #$&* You to the American people. Sad, just sad.

4 The Theorist April 25, 2014 at 5:54 PM

“One Ring to rule them all, One ring to find them;
One ring to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them.”
Why on gods green earth would these “lawmakers” try and pass laws about technology they have absolutely no clue how it works.
We need more scientists, engineers, and businesspersons on science committees and FEWER lawyers and lifetime politicos with no real world experience.
Not like this tech could be abused to prevent the general population in a certain area from communicating, say in a protest or revolutionary situation.
Just say NO to government overreach.

5 ken April 25, 2014 at 6:00 PM

way to go left coast

6 KJ April 25, 2014 at 6:06 PM

What NOT a surprise: The “people” with political clout didn’t want it to pass, so it didn’t pass.

The only way to put pressure on those “people” is for breathing people to stop buying a new Smart phone to replace one that was stolen. But, I don’t suppose that’s any more likely to happen than getting legislation passed.

7 Dorothy April 25, 2014 at 6:10 PM

Money talks – on phones.

8 Always Right April 25, 2014 at 6:37 PM

Can we get a kill switch to shut down the California legislature?

That would save Billions $$$$$$$

9 Come on... April 25, 2014 at 6:50 PM

these decisions are made in the board rooms
not in the legislation houses. They throw a few
bones our way, but for decades “OUR” Govt.
was bought and paid for. Understand this and
we may be able to get it back. But the” Capitalists”
won’t give up without a fight. So get yours while
you can in the only “free market” left, the black
market.

10 EdiBirsan April 25, 2014 at 7:14 PM

@always Right ((I hope that is not a political statement))

We do have a switch- it is called an election.

11 RunDogRun April 25, 2014 at 7:16 PM

Can we please have the names
of the 17 who voted against it so
that in the next election we can
vote them out?

12 Anon April 25, 2014 at 7:32 PM

Leave it to the Democrats to fix a problem where there is none. There are many apps that will do this for you, now, morons.

13 Oh Dear! Somebody April 25, 2014 at 7:53 PM

failed to pay off the right people.

No passage of a bill for you today, come back tomorrow with more money.

14 KJ April 25, 2014 at 7:54 PM

Anon @12 — But how can the thieves know your phone has one of those apps installed? Until thieves know it’s not worth it to steal any phone, no phone is safe from theft.

Here’s the vote: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/13-14/bill/sen/sb_0951-1000/sb_962_vote_20140424_1027AM_sen_floor.html

15 unknown April 25, 2014 at 7:55 PM

Another new law – They will not enforce.

16 me April 25, 2014 at 9:04 PM

Anon #12
Keeping it simple for you…you are an idiot.

17 MC Rider April 25, 2014 at 9:48 PM

Thank god it did not pass. We don’t need more Nanny Government regulations. Allow the free market to take care of this problem and Allow consumers to choose how to best safeguard their own property.

18 No keen April 25, 2014 at 11:48 PM

Once again a majority of our legislators side with who bankrolls their campaigns. This piece of legislation actually could do some good, but not benefit the consumer versus their corporate masters. Now under we have no confidence in our lawmakers. They sold us out.

19 Jackson Hammer April 26, 2014 at 12:00 AM

This law has no downside to consumers, only an idiot would support this being rejected. The only people mad about this are thieves who steal and/or sell stolen phones or phone company execs who make billions on replacement phones.

Cheering its death is like supporting a bill that made locking car doors an optional feature that costs extra.

20 Really? April 26, 2014 at 4:41 AM

I thought BIG corporations were only in the pockets of republicans, HA! Anyway, I understand that cell phone theft is only a problem here in the states, elsewhere it handled in a very simple manor. Each phone has a serial or IMEI number and if it’s stolen the owner contacts the carrier which in turns locks out the phone, simple, done and over. Nobody wants to steal something that’s worthless therefore cell phone theft where this is done doesn’t exist. No software required and could be implemented immediately. But as you can see there’s a big industry built up around the reselling of phones to phone theft victims. Samsung, Motorola, and yes, even the peoples favorite, Apple as well as others, prophet immensely from taking money from THEFT VICTIMS. How low can you go?

21 @MC Rider April 26, 2014 at 5:04 AM

You have it exactly right. I’m surprised you’re in such a tiny minority.

If your phone gets stolen, you call the cell provider and report it. Then it can’t be activated. How hard is that? And if you want a “kill switch”, you spend $2.99 and buy one. What’s next? Requiring cars to come with clubs? I know, maybe we should require people to buy a $500 watch that they have to be wearing for the phone to work.

22 MiddleClassJoe April 26, 2014 at 7:31 AM

The title needs to be corrected to “After being bribed and payed off with corporate dollars Senate fails to pass bill”.

23 MiddleClassJoe April 26, 2014 at 7:36 AM

I just can’t imagine why the majority of US citizens do not trust politicians and the entire government.

24 Ralph April 26, 2014 at 9:19 AM

You have it all wrong. Phones can be reactivated after being shut off by owner. The proposed “Kill switch” would permanently kill the phone. Right now this can not be done. You can reactivate any phone currently. And with smartphones having a value of say $500, they will continue to be stolen. So Anon, who is the idiot.

25 Triple Canopy April 26, 2014 at 1:18 PM

More stupid legislation from the left…..

Punish the thieves and burglars you idiots!

26 eyewhen April 27, 2014 at 7:30 AM

It is obvious most of you are unaware “kill switch” technology. As someone pointed out… this is standard on phone in most other countries.

27 Laura Zah April 27, 2014 at 10:16 AM

I had a cell phone stolen once. Dumbsh*t used it & I tracked him down & got his butt busted.

28 Suzanne April 27, 2014 at 11:09 AM

All of the newer phones come with gps. It’s just easy…

29 RunDogRun April 27, 2014 at 1:51 PM

@KJ Thank you for the names.
Not in this area, but obviously
people serving in public office
who are not concerned about
public safety.

30 Killjoy April 27, 2014 at 4:17 PM

I’d be more concerned with if it did pass, then some hacker would make a bug to shut down all smart phones. Then where would we all be?
Perhaps the phone companies would make the bug themselves, shut down all the phones so we would have to buy new ones?

Lots and lots of questions here.

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