Saturday, February 08, 2014

California looks to mandate mobile device 'kill switch' technology by 2015

State Senator Mark Leno of California (D) introduced a bill on Friday that would require a "kill switch" on every cell phone and tablet sold in the state, Bits reported. California Senate bill 962 would mandate such technology by Jan. 1, 2015.

Companies that sold phones without such kill switches would be subject to fines of up to $2,500 -- for each device sold.

Smartphone theft has surged in recent years, as noted by none other than former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who blamed a 2012 rise in major crimes in the city on iPhone theft. While this is great for California, it would be great for the rest of the country, as well.

Why, you might ask?

Due to the state's size -- it's the most populous in the nation, and gadget hungry, to boot -- it would be financially unsound for any cell phone manufacturer to create devices for that state with different technology than in the rest of the country. That would mean all states would benefit from such an anti-theft measure.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon joined Leno in introducing the bill; Gascon has been among those pressuring OEMs to add anti-theft technology to their devices. In addition to the duo, support for the bill has already been pledged from the mayors and police chiefs of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Oakland.

It's unlikely the bill will see much opposition. After California instituted a system of redistricting using a non-partisan commission, Democrats took supermajorities in both houses of the legislature. In addition, Gov. Jerry Brown is a Democrat.

Apple has already implemented anti-theft technology in its iOS 7 platform. If a device has Find My iPhone enabled, it cannot be reactivated -- say after a hard reset -- unless you have the username and password. The feature is called Activation Lock, and although it is useful, has already resulted in bricked iDevices that are being sold as such on eBay.

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