Smartphones sold in California will be required, as of July 2015, to come with a “kill switch”, after a bill was signed earlier this week.
SB-962 was introduced in February and calls for smartphones to feature a built-in tool that allows the owner to remotely lock, disable and wipe the device. The goal is to reduce smartphone theft by making a stolen smartphone significantly less valuable.
Created by California state Senator Mark Leno and San Francisco district attorney George Gascón, the bill originally included tablets and any other “advanced mobile communications device.” Gascón even hired security experts to crack the devices in order to demonstrate smartphone manufacturers’ inadequacy with dealing with theft.
However it’s not just thieves who are unhappy with the bill.
Jaime Hastings, the vice president of external and state affairs for the CTIA (cellular telecommunications industry association), said, “Today’s action was unnecessary given the breadth of action the industry has taken. Uniformity in the wireless industry created tremendous benefits for wireless consumers, including lower costs and phenomenal innovation. State by state technology mandates, such as this one, stifle those benefits and are detrimental to wireless consumers.”
The CTIA recently brokered a voluntary agreement with every major player in the telecoms industry, that would offer users a way of remotely wiping or bricking their devices. The two big differences between the bill and the agreement are that the CTIA agreement doesn’t require devices ship with the “kill switch,” and wouldn’t allow smartphones without the security measures from being sold.
With the launch of iOS 7’s iCloud Activation Lock feature, thefts of Apple devices are reported to have fallen dramatically. In San Francisco this allegedly resulted in a 38 per cent drop in iPhone-related theft, and in New York a 29 per cent decrease.
With cities like London and Manchester hotbeds for gadget theft in the UK, you’d imagine that the “kill switch” will come to our shores sooner rather than later.