Smartphone Kill Switch Bill Approved

May 09, 2014 04:29 PM EDT | Matt Mercuro

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California lawmakers advanced a bill on May 8 that would require electronics manufacturers to install a shut-off function in all smartphones to deter, as one senator put it, a "crime wave" of thefts, according to the Associated Press.

The legislation by Sen. Mark Leno, from San Francisco, requires companies to produce smartphones with technology that makes them unusable if the owner loses possession somehow.

Two weeks ago, the legislation fell two votes short of passing the 40-member Senate, but Leno said amendments since then removed opposition from both Apple and Microsoft.

The wireless industry, as a whole, opposes the measure however, calling it unnecessary. Overall, the industry "objects" to having "confusing" state-by-state laws, according to AP.

"We have a crime wave sweeping our state," Leno said in urging support for his bill. He said two of three robberies in San Francisco now include the theft of a smartphone, and one of four robberies in Oakland.
"These crimes are up at double-digit rates," Leno said, according to AP. "We're trying to keep our constituents safe on the streets."

The bill advanced as a S.F. supervisor proposed legislation this week that would make it mandatory for all smartphones and other mobile device sold in the city to come equipped with a "kill switch" to make the devices inoperable if the device is stolen or becomes lost.

Recent reports show that select smartphone owners are endangering themselves by using tracking software to confront thieves to find their phones, said Senator Alex Padilla, from Los Angeles, according to AP.

SB962 passed the Senate by a vote of 26-8 on its second attempt. Now the bill heads to the Assembly, and Leno said more amendments will be considered there, including a number offered by Apple.

Companies can be fined from $500 to $2,500 for selling phones that don't include kill switches.

Sen. Lou Correa, Anaheim, voted for the bill, but he and a number of Republicans believe that those who didn't manufacture the phones or install the software should not be held liable if the phones don't include a kill switch.

"These are good citizens in the business world," Correa said, according to AP.

Leno said state law requires that fines may only be used for "unlawful, unfair, fraudulent conduct." He will consider adding "specific language" to the bill that fines may only be imposed if there is malicious intent.

Voluntary action isn't enough, because owners would have to activate the software themselves, according to Leno. The bill requires that a kill switch be included as the default setting, according to AP.

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