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California kill switch bill goes into effect today - all phones to come with theft protection
Smartphone theft is a huge problem – one that costs mobile consumers about $2.5 billion a year. California is one of the first to take action by introducing a law that requests every phone sold in the state to include what has been commonly referred as a “kill switch”.
California bill SB-962 was finalized last August, when we were also informed the new regulation would go into effect starting July 1st 2015. Fast-forward nearly a year later and we are seeing things come to fruition. The day has come and the law goes into effect immediately.
For those who may be out of the loop, a kill switch is a system (hardware or software) that deems a smartphone unusable if reported stolen. Apple has been implementing its own technology for some time, but they are no longer alone. In fact, a long list of manufacturers, carriers and tech companies are backing this movement, including Google, Microsoft, Samsung and HTC.
Our beloved Google kept its promise to provide an effective kill switch with the introduction of Android Lollipop. It comes in the form of Factory Reset Protection, which allows smartphone owners to set a password the user would need to input before a factory data reset is performed. This, in combination with Android Device Manager (which can lock phones remotely), makes for a full kill switch method without any loopholes.
How many of us have gotten our smartphones stolen? It has happened to most of us, which means something definitely had to be done. Not everyone was for this kill switch idea. In fact, it was voted down by the senate at first, and those who make a profit out of phone insurances (carriers, insurance companies and the CTIA) were not too happy about the possibility of losing part of its $7.8 billion yearly profits.
The issue here is that this is a proven method and it’s already reducing smartphone theft! Kill switch systems have been put into effect by some companies before the law required phone makers to do so, and it’s doing wonders. Though about 2.1 million Americans had their smartphones stolen in 2014, this is a huge improvement over 2013.
Theft went down by 32%. More specifically, New York saw a 16% drop in handset robberies, and Apple phones had a 25% decrease in losses. Another report published this February also indicates San Francisco’s theft numbers went down by 40% in the last 12 months, while London was the star with a whopping 50% reduction. And it makes total sense! If every phone out there will be unusable when stolen, thieves will have very little incentive to steal them. That is, unless they want an amazing paper weight.
Even with all these advancements, though, 2.1 million thefts in 2014 is a big number. We certainly need to do better than that. For starters, people need to make sure they know how to protect themselves and actually use these kill switches. The implementation of this law keeps you protected only if you know how to operate the tools handed to you. We all still need to educate ourselves; only then can we make kill switches ubiquitous, and hence, effective.
How many of you guys have used these kill switches? Did it ever actually help you recover your device? Do you think kill switches are even the answer? Hit the comments and share your thoughts with all of us.