California smartphone ‘kill switch’ bill passes state legislature

iphone theft

Earlier this year, California Senator Mark Leno introduced a new bill that would require cellphone makers to install ‘kill switches’ in all of their handsets, rendering them inoperable when stolen. The move comes as smartphone thefts continue to rise in major US cities.

Unsurprisingly, Leno’s bill won Senate approval by a vote of 27-8 today, meaning that it’s just one step away from becoming law in the state of California. All it needs now is Governor Jerry Brown’s signature, and device manufacturers will have essentially a year to comply…

Here’s a statement from Leno on the legislation (via Recode):

“With robberies of smartphones reaching an all-time high, California cannot continue to stand by when a solution to the problem is readily available,” Senator Leno said in a statement. “Today we are officially stepping in and requiring the cellphone industry to take the necessary steps to curb violent smartphone thefts and protect the safety of the very consumers they rely upon to support their businesses.”

An earlier version of the bill stated that all advanced mobile devices should feature the so-called kill switch, but it has since been revised to state only smartphones. As such, several carriers and tech firms, including Apple, Google and Samsung have pledged their support.

San Francisco’s District Attorney’s office says that more than half of all robberies in the city in 2012 involved the theft of a mobile device. And according to the Federal Communications Commission, between 30 and 40%  of all thefts in major cities are smartphone-related.

Of course, Apple has already taken some steps to try to help curb smartphone thefts by introducing Activation Lock in iOS 7. The feature isn’t perfect, but it has made a positive impact. It sounds like what this new California bill calls for, though, is something far more potent.

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