California Rejects Smartphone Kill Switch Bill

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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 nowCalifornia'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.

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Senator Leno's bill may be dead today, but he's going to find a way to bring it back. Backers see the vote against the bill as a win for smartphone makers, and they want to turn that into what they see as a win for consumers and blow to criminals.

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Lee Dronick

I suppose that not having one keeps Gubbermint, and others, from shutting down your phone.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

The last thing we should want is clowns in Sacramento (from either party) specifying or designing cell phone features. iPhone users already have a system for this, and it iPhones still get stolen.


Bosco, interesting problem with Apple’s solution.  If I steal a phone, turn it off, then turn it on where it doesn’t get cell service then I can reinstall the iOS and “Where’s my iPhone” is dead.  As it is based on Apple ID and not Device UUID.

If it was changed to Device UUID then the phone would truly be a brick and unsellable as soon as it appeared on any internet capable Wifi or cell network.  Bring the resell value to $0.

But I don’t see Apple doing such a change.  Which is a shame.


@mourning: “If I steal a phone, turn it off, then turn it on where it doesn’t get cell service then I can reinstall the iOS and “Where’s my iPhone” is dead.  As it is based on Apple ID and not Device UUID.”

This is completely false. If “Find My iPhone” is turned on then the phone MUST connect to Apple’s servers for verification before anyone can,

- Turn off “Find My iPhone” on the device
- Erase the device
- Reactivate and use the device.

Even if you’ve already remotely erased your device, verification with Apple’s services is required to reactivate it.

If there isn’t a signal then the verification process cannot continue and the thief would be denied access. You didn’t honestly think the security measure is going to be ignored just because there isn’t a signal, do you?

If you’d like to educate yourself, Apple’s support page is here…


Those who voted it against it are “Soft on Crime.”


@mjtomlin Then someone at Apple lied to me or they fixed it.  Because when my device went I locked it within an hour of realizing it, it had not checked in for 30 minutes before locking it.  Apple told me if they had reinstalled the OS before the lock then the device wouldn’t honor it.

If it is true it will honor it even after being reinstalled these days that is good to hear, because it did back 4 years ago when my device vanished.


Seems to me having an ‘option’ to have your phone bricked upon your remote command is a good thing, period. I don’t think the government should necessarily mandate anything though. Of course phone makers love it because if thieves knew “hot” phones would not be flippable, then they would sell “x” less phones.
Between this and the rape of Net Neutrality it hasn’t been a good week for consumers.

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