California lawmakers rejected a proposed law to require smartphone makers to include a remote "kill switch" in their devices as a move to help curb rampant phone theft in the state on Thursday. Proponents to the bill called the vote a win for business and a loss for consumers.
California's smartphone kill switch bill is dead for now
The vote was close, according to CNET, with 19 legislators in favor and 17 against. While there were more votes in favor of passing the bill, California requires a minimun of 21 votes, leaving proponents two votes short of the majority they needed.
The now defeated bill would've required all smartphone makers to include a "kill switch" feature to help curb the escalating problem of smartphone thefts during robberies. In San Francisco, for example, smartphones are stolen in 60 percent of robberies. In Oakland, that number jumps to 75 percent. Backers argued that the feature would make stealing smartphones less enticing because the devices could be disabled and rendered useless remotely.
State Senator Mark Leno, who championed the bill, isn't ready to give up. He plans to bring up the bill again next week, adding, "The game is not yet over."
Just because the bill is DOA for now, that doesn't mean consumers don't have tools available to them for remotely wiping and killing their smartphones if they're lost or stolen. Apple, for example, already offers Find My iPhone which lets users track where iPhone is at any given time, send messages that display even if the device is locked, and remotely delete all data and disable the phone.
Apple, as well as other smartphone makers including Samsung and Motorola, have also signed on with the CTIA's guidelines for features to render devices useless if lost or stolen. The guidelines call for apps users can download to enable "kill switch" features, which at least some California lawmakers feel doesn't go far enough. Instead, they think smartphone users should be presented with an opt-out system instead of the opt-in system the CTIA guidelines create.
Senator Leno thinks the CTIA guidelines are a great start, but consumers need more. He said,
This technology exists, and until it is pre-enabled on every new phone purchased, consumers will continue to be the innocent victims of thieves who bank on the fact that these devices can be resold at a profit on the black market.
For now, smartphone antitheft measures will be available based on what device makers are willing to offer. If Senator Leno can push find a new way to push his bill through the California legislation process, those features will become mandatory.