California Senate votes down bill for mandatory anti-theft kill switches

April 25, 2014
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Kill Switch needed for Stolen Phones?

With hopes of saving consumers upwards of $2.5 billion per year in costs related to stolen mobile devices, a “kill switch” bill went before California state Senate this week. The bill would have made it mandatory for device manufacturers to install a method for rendering stolen devices inoperable. After the votes were tallied, 19 in favor and 17 against simply did not meet the 21 votes needed to pass the bill.

Last month, we went over many of the ins and outs of a device kill switch, answering the question of why they are not already in our smartphones. Indeed, many tools already exist that allow users to lock and wipe their data from lost or stolen mobile devices; Google, Samsung and more have even pledged to expand their kill switch functionality moving forward.

“This technology already exists, but it needs to be deployed in a way which doesn't rely on consumers to seek out the solutions and turn them on. That’s all this legislation does.”
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon


Instead of making a kill switch a mandatory inclusion to smartphones, the denial of this bill places the onus on the end user to learn the apps, features and tools that are available to protect their devices and the sensitive personal data contained within. Manufacturers and carriers are not obligated to provide tools to help this process.

The folks that voted against this bill suggest that the language is too vague, written in such a way that would require anti-theft measures installed on a range of devices, not just smartphones. Further speculation suggests pressure from the mobile carriers to turn down this bill, these same companies collect upwards of $2 billion per year selling handset insurance to consumers.

emergency kill switch Credit: dumbledad

Despite defeat, California Senator Mark Leno is apparently optimistic that his sponsored bill will be passed into law when next put to vote in legislature. Before the next vote, it may be wise for all involved to take a look at South Korea, which enacted a similar law last year.

We have already asked if you would want an anti-theft kill switch in your devices. At the time of writing, your opinion would flip the California Senate vote, with 66% in favor, 34% against, or roughly a 24 yes vote, enough to pass the bill into law. Let us ask more specifically this time, do you think manufacturers and carriers should be responsible for including these tools, or should it remain up to the user to protect themselves?

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