California Law Could Require Apple and Others to Install Smartphone ‘Kill Switch’
New legislation proposed in California may soon require all mobile devices sold in the state to have a “kill switch” function that can disable stolen devices. The legislation was introduced by Senator Mark Leno, who noted that the law is intended to curb the increasingly widespread problem of smartphone theft in the state. If the legislation passes, it could compel smartphone vendors and wireless carriers like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Samsung (SSNLF.PK), AT&T (NYSE:T), and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) to pre-equip devices sold in California with the automatic anti-theft feature by 2015.
“With robberies of smartphones reaching an all-time high, California cannot continue to stand by when a solution to the problem is readily available,” stated Senator Leno via the Senate District 11 website. “Today we are officially stepping in and requiring the cell phone industry to take the necessary steps to curb violent smartphone thefts and protect the safety of the very consumers they rely upon to support their businesses.”
According to statistics cited by Senator Leno, over 50 percent of robberies in San Francisco involve the theft of a mobile phone and over 1.6 million Americans were robbed for their smartphones in 2012. The new smartphone security feature requirement would presumably cut down on these types of crimes since the devices would be rendered inoperable by the kill switch feature.
Apple’s iPhones already come with a similar theft deterrent feature known as Activation Lock. According to Apple, this feature prevents thieves from disabling the Find My iPhone application even if the phone data is erased. It also requires the owner’s Apple ID and passcode in order to reactivate the phone. However, as noted by the San Jose Mercury News, Activation Lock is currently an optional feature that must be activated by the customer.