That kill switch lawmakers have so earnestly been trying to implement passed an important hurdle this week. After failing to pass just two weeks ago, the bill has been approved and now must go through a lengthy legislative process before hitting the desk of California Gov. Jerry Brown. If signed into law, all smartphones sold in California would be required to include a “kill switch” capable of rendering a phone inoperable. The kill switch idea has been vigorously opposed by wireless carriers.
One of the kill switches largest backers, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, has been trying to get support for the bill in response to rising smartphone thefts. Data from security firm Lookout found that one in ten smartphone owners in the U.S. was a victim of smartphone theft. Meanwhile, 67 percent of robberies in San Francisco this year has involved smartphones; there was a 40 percent increase in mobile device thefts last year in New York City. When the bill initially failed to pass, it only received 19 votes, failing to meet the required 21 to pass. However, the bill received 26 “yes” votes in the California senate.
“We’re one step closer to ending violence and victimization that far too many people have been subjected to,” said Gascon. “California truly has an opportunity to lead the way and end this public safety crisis, the potential to end this global epidemic is very real.”
Apple already offers anti-theft measures, while Android has access to software for users to track their device. The push back from wireless carriers was over the potential for devices to be hacked, and possibly rendered useless even though a device hasn’t been stolen. Under the bill, every phone that’s sold in California will come with the kill switch software turned on; if a phone is stolen, that switch can be flipped, making the phone inoperable.
Even though the bill has overcome a small obstacle, the fight to get it passed is still ongoing. Both wireless carriers and device makers have been opposed to a mandated kill switch, and the fact that it’s finally getting traction likely won’t sit well. We’ll keep a close eye on this one to see how it ultimately plays out.