Senator Mark Leno’s Smartphone “Kill Switch” Bill Signed into Law

August 26, 2014 8:00 am · 22 comments

A bill signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown today should make smartphones a lot less vulnerable to prospective thieves in the Bay Area and beyond.

Authored by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, Senate Bill 962 requires all smartphones sold in the state to come equipped with anti-theft technology. The new law will take effect next July.

“Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb this crime of convenience, which is fueling street crime and violence within our communities,” Leno said in a statement.

Under the new law, smartphone manufacturers will be required to equip phones sold in California with “kill switch” technology allowing the phone’s owner to remotely lock and wipe their device, rendering it useless.

If the smartphone is later found, the owner can restore the phone’s functionality and data.

The new legislation also requires technology that prevents a wireless device from being reactivated without the owner’s identification.

According to Leno’s office, some 67 percent of all robberies in San Francisco involve the theft of a mobile communications device, and in Oakland the rate is as high as 75 percent.

The number of reported victims of smartphone thefts in the U.S. doubled from 1.6 million to 3.1 million from 2012 and 2013, according to the senator’s office.

A June report from the Secure Our Smartphones Coalition revealed that since Apple implemented its Activation Lock anti-theft technology, robberies of iPhones fell by 38 percent in San Francisco while the city saw thefts of Samsung phones — which don’t have kill switches — rise by 12 percent during the same time period.

“Seldom can a public safety crisis be addressed by a technological solution, but today wireless consumers everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief,” said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, who sponsored the legislation.

“The devices we use every day will no longer make us targets for violent criminals,” Gascon said.

Smartphone manufacturers have indicated that they plan to apply the standards required under the bill nationwide, according to Leno’s office.

Since its introduction in June, the bill faced considerable opposition from some telecommunications and insurance companies.

Wireless industry membership group CTIA-The Wireless Association has said the legislation was unnecessary because the industry is already taking steps to combat theft, including the introduction next year of software that allows smartphone users to install a kill switch on their phones but doesn’t include the technology as part of the phone’s default setting.

1 Sick of it August 26, 2014 at 8:17 AM

The laws to punish these POS are in place, the problem is the punishments are not handed down and the criminals know it. The working folks have to buy new phones, make Apple & Samsung profits soar while the criminals simply find another way to rob & steal. Sickening!
I still have a clamshell phone, never text and somehow I survive.

2 Really? August 26, 2014 at 8:45 AM

“The new legislation also requires technology that prevents a wireless device from being reactivated without the owner’s identification”. This needs to be implemented country wide to be completely effective otherwise our stolen phones will just be sold out of state. “kill switch” technology allowing the phone’s owner to remotely lock and wipe their device, rendering it useless”. Not really sold on the technology angle, I’m sure thieves will find a way to hack them. All & all I guess it’s a step in the right direction.

3 Pyrrhus August 26, 2014 at 9:03 AM

@1 How do you propose they crack down on it? This is petty theft and happens mostly on run and grabs where nobody has a chance to really see the perpetrator. The thief wipes the phone and has so many avenues to sell the phone without being tracked.

This bill takes away any incentive to steal as the phone is completely useless. Even if you do end up buying a stolen phone on ebay that has been locked, you’ll be able to obtain your money back through paypal.

4 cornfed August 26, 2014 at 9:14 AM

The worst part of this story are the empty suits we elected who are now being paid to come up with stuff like this.

I say we put a kill switch on the front door of the capitol.

5 awake August 26, 2014 at 9:19 AM

lets se how long it takes before they use the kill switch to stop people from sharing info…….. remember the Bart phone shutdown durring protests?

6 The Professor August 26, 2014 at 9:45 AM

OMG, I actually agree on something with Mark Leno! I feel like I need a shower.

7 Tom August 26, 2014 at 9:47 AM

This sounds like a good law, but will it be effective?

Do thieves read up on the latest laws? Do they care? Or will they steal anyway because it’s a way of life?

My guess is the latter.

8 MrDioji August 26, 2014 at 9:52 AM

Samsung phones do indeed have a “kill switch” in the form of Android Device Manager.

9 anon August 26, 2014 at 9:54 AM

WOW ! So negative on the kill switch.

10 MTZ August 26, 2014 at 9:57 AM

These ineffective lawmakers need something to hang their hat on.
Total waste of tax money! Put you phone in your pocket when you are walking down the street, look someone in the eye and say hi… or maybe see that they are about to rob your dumb a$$ and have time to react.

11 Concord Guy August 26, 2014 at 9:58 AM

I’m no fan of this California legislature and all of the unnecessary bills that they pass. This one, however, is sorely needed and long overdue.

12 Scooter August 26, 2014 at 10:15 AM

I think it is part of Obama’s plan to make us a Muslim country.

13 Anon777 August 26, 2014 at 11:21 AM

Yes, this was long overdue. Not sure why all the negativity, as it doesn’t hurt the phone companies but does help the consumer AND has proven to lower theft on the stats from iphones.

14 B August 26, 2014 at 11:23 AM

Too bad is wasn’t a Republican who authored this law, we could use some positive comments around here.

15 The Realist August 26, 2014 at 11:39 AM

No potential for government abuse here! ¯\_ಠ_ಠ_/¯
watch this being used at the next OWS-type protests…
mark my words!

16 Technical August 26, 2014 at 11:56 AM

If it can’t be disabled by a user who doesn’t want this feature, this is a catastrophically bad law. There is no precident anywhere for the idea that a third party by law have the ability to disable your property. What if you want to use your phone wifi-only, and stop paying your cell company, you really want them to have the power to disable your device?

17 Chronic Halitosis August 26, 2014 at 1:10 PM

Put kill switches in cars to eliminate DUI , head on collisions, and child death. Phones are completely traceable and track able. Put cameras on all cops, ambulances, freeway on ramps, major intersections , car dashes…Change for the better is coming yeah they are going to watch you thru your smart TV but you can also watch them thru your smart TV.

18 Maria August 26, 2014 at 1:31 PM

It hurts the phone companies as they sell insurance so this will hurt their revenue ……. that is why they oppose this bill

19 Atticus Thraxx August 26, 2014 at 1:31 PM

It’s excellent legislation and long over due.

20 Aspirin August 26, 2014 at 5:02 PM

How about a remote kill switch for noisy motorcycles.

21 @ aspirin #20 August 26, 2014 at 5:40 PM

Aspirin / Indie / Just Sayin’ / and all your other names –
How about a kill switch for your multiple personalities.

22 Jojo potato August 27, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Australia has had this for several years. We maybe catch up with them. And stop making millions for these companies.

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