New Smartphone Kill Switch Law in California – July 1 2015
New Smartphone Kill Switch Law in California – For years now California has had a huge problem with smartphone theft. There have been many attempts to deter thieves with software like Avast Mobile Security and Apple’s Find my iPhone, which give users remote access to their phone from any computer connected to the internet. These applications allow users to lock their phones, take pictures of thieves, set off alarms, track the phone via GPS, and much more.
It seems these apps aren’t enough though, as smartphone theft has increased, not declined, over the last few years. Consumer Reports state that in the United States alone, the number of phone-theft victims doubled from 1.6 million to 3.1 million between 2012-2013.
In response to this, smartphone companies, lawmakers, and police have come up with a new solution to mobile phone theft.
On Monday Governor Jerry brown signed the legislation to make California the first state in the US to require “kill switches” on all new smartphones. It’s not the cool kind of kill switch you may have been hoping for, like in Mission Impossible, but it gets the job done.
As of July 1, 2015, all smartphone manufacturers will be obligated to install security features that brick the phone if it happens to get stolen. By “brick” I mean render it useless.
Co-author of the “cellphone kill switch” bill and State Senator Mark Leno said:
“California has just put smartphone thieves on notice. 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.”
As long as users have backed up their data, they needn’t worry if they use the kill switch on their phone after it’s gone missing, but for those who procrastinate backing up their information (like myself), well, we’re SOL. Customers do have the choice to opt out of the feature; hopefully this option is a clear to everyone.
Apple has revoked their opposition to the bill, and all other major cellphone companies have followed suit. Not everyone is on-board though; the California Chamber of Commerce still doesn’t support the bill. They believe consumers should have a choice in which anti-theft software is installed on their phone. Maybe they didn’t hear about the opt-out part?
CITA spokesman Jamie Hastings said “Today’s action was unnecessary.” According to him, the smartphone industry has already created databases of stolen phones, anti-theft applications, consumer education campaigns, and even a plan to solve the problem with national technology.
The EFF also disagrees with the motion, claiming that the kill switch can be abused by law enforcement and hackers. Supporters of the bill disagree, stating that the bill could potentially save peoples’ lives.
Only time will tell if this “kill switch” is the solution to our smartphone theft epidemic. Something tells me thieves will find a new way to reactivate the phone because all the components are still there. I guess we’ll see next year!