California smartphone 'kill switch' bill advances

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 8, 2014 at 4:39 pm •  Published: May 8, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — On a second attempt, California lawmakers advanced a bill Thursday that would require electronics manufacturers to install a shut-off function in all smartphones as a way to deter what one senator called a crime wave of thefts.

The legislation by Democratic Sen. Mark Leno requires companies to produce smartphones with technology that makes them inoperable if the owner loses possession.

It fell two votes short of passing the 40-member Senate two weeks ago, but Leno said amendments since then removed opposition from Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. It now applies to smartphones manufactured and sold after July 2015 and no longer includes tablets.

The wireless industry, however, opposes the measure as unnecessary.

"We have a crime wave sweeping our state," Leno, who represents San Francisco, said in urging support for his bill. He said two of three robberies in that city now include the theft of a smartphone, along with one of four robberies in Oakland.

"These crimes are up at double-digit rates," he said. "We're trying to keep our constituents safe on the streets."

It advanced as a San Francisco supervisor proposed legislation this week that would require smartphones and other mobile devices sold in the city to be equipped with a "kill switch" to render them inoperable if they're lost or stolen.

Similar legislation is being considered in New York, Illinois and Minnesota, and bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress.

Also Thursday, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed similar legislation that would require that all new smartphones and cellular-connected tablet computers sold in Minnesota after July 2015 have a kill switch anti-theft function. The Minnesota Senate passed a slightly different version last week.

In California, Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla noted recent reports that some smartphone owners are endangering themselves by using phones' tracking software to confront thieves and retrieve their phones.

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