New California Law to Require ‘Kill Switch’ on Smartphones

Starting in July of next year, all smartphones sold in California must have a “kill switch,” a software feature that allows smartphone owners to disable a phone after it has been stolen. The “kill switch” will make it more difficult for thieves to resell stolen phones because the phone can only be reactivated with the owner’s correct password. Smartphone manufacturers will be required to ship these phones with the anti-theft technology activated as part of the default settings.

mobileCalifornia Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law Monday, making California the second state to require a kill switch. State officials believe this law will help reduce phone theft.

“Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb this crime of convenience, which is fueling street crime and violence within our communities,” said State Senator Mark Leno.

There is already some data to support that claim. Apple introduced a kill switch for its popular iPhones in September. According to The New York Times, “Police said iPhone robberies in San Francisco dropped 38 percent,” compared to the six months before the debut of the anti-theft technology. Meanwhile, across the U.S., the number of devices stolen has been increasing, from 1.6 million phones in 2012 to 3.1 million phones in 2013.

CTIA, trade organization for the wireless industry, expressed opposition to the bill from the beginning. “Uniformity in the wireless industry created tremendous benefits for wireless consumers, including lower costs and phenomenal innovation,” said Jamie Hastings, vice president of external and state affairs for CTIA. “State by state technology mandates, such as this one, stifle those benefits and are detrimental to wireless consumers.”