Calif. lawmaker to introduce smartphone 'kill switch' bill

Sen. Mark Leno wants to make the security feature -- aimed at bricking stolen smartphones -- the law.

CNET

A California senator plans to introduce a new bill that would require smartphones to enable a "kill switch," a security feature that would make a phone inoperable if it's stolen.

Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) announced Thursday that he will introduce the bill at the start of the 2014 legislative session in January, with the support of San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.

"One of the top catalysts for street crime in many California cities is smartphone theft, and these crimes are becoming increasingly violent," Leno said in a press release. "We cannot continue to ignore our ability to utilize existing technology to stop cell phone thieves in their tracks. It is time to act on this serious public safety threat to our communities."

The Federal Communications Commission reports that cell phone thefts make up 30 percent to 40 percent of robberies in the US, costing consumers $30 billion, according to the release. The kill switch allows carriers to send a message to stolen phones that would trigger an action to brick the phone, rendering it useless. Carriers have protested the move , citing hacking and privacy issues.

Gascón recently renewed his commitment to the issue by conducting a survey of iPhone owners that he hoped would reveal consumers' demand for a kill switch option.

"I appreciate the efforts that many of the manufacturers are making, but the deadline we agreed upon is rapidly approaching and most do not have a technological solution in place," Gascón said in the release. "Californians continue to be victimized at an alarming rate, and this legislation will compel the industry to make the safety of their customers a priority."

 

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