California Leads The Country In Cell Phone 'Kill Switch' Legislation
February 7, 2014

California Leads The Country In Cell Phone ‘Kill Switch’ Legislation

Enid Burns for - Your Universe Online

Mobile phone theft has continued to increase, prompting lawmakers and mobile industry stakeholders to work on a "kill switch" that will render a cell phone useless if stolen. California politicians and law enforcement officials are expected to introduce a bill Friday that will push such kill switch legislation forward for the state.

The California bill, if passed, will apply to all smartphones and tablet PCs sold from January 1, 2015, ComputerWorld reports. The law dictates that all smartphones and tablet PCs should have "a technological solution that can render the essential features of the device inoperable when the device is not in possession of the rightful owner," it says in the proposed bill.

A specific kill-switch technology is not specified in the proposed bill, the news agency added. Mobile carriers will be able to design the system software, hardware or a combination of both, though it must comply with California regulations. What the bill does specify is that once activated, the phone should prevent calls, internet access and the ability to run apps on the device.

Phones and mobile devices will also have to be resistant to a hard reset or any attempt at a factory reset or downgrade in operating system that would disable the kill switch and allow the device to continue operations under a new owner profile.

Mobile carriers will face stiff penalties if the bill passes.

"The bill proposes retailers will be subject to a fine of between $500 and $2,500 per device sold that doesn't include the technology. The fines won't target private sellers of second-hand phones," ComputerWorld's Martyn Williams wrote.

State Senator Mark Leno and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon plan to formally introduce the bill in San Francisco on Friday morning. The proposed bill has backing from the mayors and police chiefs of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland.

"This legislation is critical to reducing robberies," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, in a communication to legislators earlier in the week, the LA Times reports.

A so-called kill switch for mobile devices has been discussed for some time, though no clear solution has been reached. Last fall Samsung proposed a kill-switch that would be built into its handsets and mobile devices. Carriers were quick to shoot the measures down. Still, carriers, handset manufacturers and law enforcement officials have tried to come up with a solution to address the rise in mobile device theft. In San Francisco, nearly half of all reported robberies, and 75 percent of those in Oakland involve a mobile device.

Apple has already built a "lo-jack"-like feature into its iOS devices that allows users to remotely lock their device and even display a message on the screen that might help in its recovery - such as a phone number or email address.

Gascon, along with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, have worked to create legislation and other measures to curb theft of mobile devices, including the kill-switch that will disable a phone's operation if reported stolen.