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Kill your Smartphone!

Someday, the ability may come “standard!”

The first legislative hurdle to require device makers to include antitheft “kill-switches” on phones sold in California was overcome this week in the California Senate, when SB962 introduced by Senator Mark Leno passed the Senate. SB962 was initially defeated by State Senators on April 24. The bill now must successfully navigate the California Assembly and be approved by Governor Jerry Brown.

California SB962 “…asks that device makers including Apple and Samsung put so-called “kill-switch” technology on every smartphone and have the switch automatically turned on when people buy a phone. A kill switch lets users lock the phone if it is stolen, making it inoperable.” According to the mobile security firm, Lookout, one in 10 smartphone owners in the United States has had a phone stolen. In 2013, some 3.1 million Americans were the victims of smartphone theft, almost TWICE as many as in 2012, according to Consumer Reports.

In the city of San Francisco, 67% of ALL robberies in the first few months of 2014 involved mobile devices! 

According to Lookout Mobile Security, phones are most commonly stolen in the following ways:

44% are left in a public place

14% are taken from a house or car, and

11% are pick pocketed

Although BOTH Apple and Microsoft had initially publicly OPPOSED the bill, both companies backed off their stances this week. Both companies declined to comment,  according to the CNET article.

On the floor of the California Senate, much of the discussion centered on the issue of who would assume the blame if a phone is sold without the kill-switch software, a penalty that would range from $500 to $2500, as the bill is written currently. Right now, the liability would fall on the retailer selling the phones.

And then there are our “friends” in the CTIA:

The telecom industry softened its stance last month when the CTIA, a trade organization that represents the mobile-telecom companies, announced a commitment to make the the antitheft software standard on all phones from participating device makers and carriers — including Apple, Samsung, Google (which makes the widely used Android mobile operating system), AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile — though ultimately the choice to include the software would be voluntary for the companies.

The CTIA continued to oppose the bill on Thursday. “Given the breadth of action the industry has voluntarily taken, it was unnecessary for the California Senate to approve SB962, which would mandate a specific form of anti-theft functionality,” Jamie Hastings, the CTIA’s vice president, external and state affairs, said in a statement.

Yeah. Right.

Under the CTIA’s voluntary commitment program, the kill-switch features would come automatically turned off by default. The bill’s supporters argue that requiring a customer to turn on the antitheft feature defeats its purpose, since the intent of the law is to send a message to would-be thieves that stealing an inoperable phone would be useless. Leno said the wireless industry’s resistance has to do with money, specifically losing business from insurance partners.

-Bill at

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