Hands off my phone, bucko; California is now a “kill switch” zone.
Signed by Governor Jerry Brown last August, the new law will require all new smartphones sold in California to have a “kill switch,” all in an effort to deter theft. The law’s implementation is the result of months of lobbying from state senators, which sought to figure out how to stop thieves from targeting smartphone owners.
Smartphone theft has tarnished what is otherwise a flourishing market, particularly in heavily populated cities, such as London, New York and Los Angeles. This latest law is meant to ensure companies are doing their part to keep consumers safe. But it’s not just about locating and wiping devices. A “kill switch” is designed to render a device useless should it be stolen, meaning thieves aren’t able to sell what’s essentially a brick.
“This is validation of what we knew to be the case all along, that if you remove the value of a stolen device you remove the incentive to engage in this violent behavior,” said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who has been a proponent of anti-theft protection from the beginning. Gasón described smartphone theft as a “global epidemic,” and said he hopes this law will become ubiquitous worldwide.
Apple already has an activation lock feature, which is automatically enabled when you turn on Find My iPhone on a device running iOS 7 or later. Once the feature is on, a device cannot be wiped until a password is inputed. A majority of the smartphone industry has agreed to implement similar protections all across the U.S., including BlackBerry, Google, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Microsoft, Samsung and ZTE.
New data suggests thefts are already on the decline. According to the Consumer Reports National Research Center, there was a 32-percent decrease in theft from 2013 to 2014. That’s good news, and with more and more devices getting fingerprint mechanisms for security, along with the kill switch law, theft could go down even more over the next 12 months.