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California smartphone 'kill switch' bill fails

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 24, 2014 at 7:43 pm •  Published: April 24, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A bill that would force electronics manufacturers to install a shut-off function in all smartphones narrowly failed in the state Senate on Thursday but could be revived later this spring.

The legislation by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, responds to a crime problem that is exploding across the country. In San Francisco, for example, the district attorney's office says more than half of all robberies last year included the theft of a smartphone, and the bill analysis cites a Consumer Reports study that estimated 1.6 million Americans were targeted by thieves for their smartphones last year.

Leno's legislation, SB962, fell two votes shy of a majority in the 40-member house. It would have required companies to manufacture smartphones with technology that would make them inoperable when not in the owner's possession.

The wireless industry prefers a voluntary approach that allows consumers to opt-in if they choose, such as downloading free apps that protect the devices and their information if they are stolen. But Leno said the technology must be mandatory to act as a deterrent. His bill would put the burden on manufacturers rather than consumers, who would have to opt out of the protections at the time of purchase.

"This is about a technological deterrence," Leno said. "We need to get into the minds of those who have shifted their activities to these new crimes that it's not worth it."

He also said the industry benefits financially from the high rate of smartphone thefts. He told his colleagues before the Senate vote that it makes billions of dollars selling insurance policies to consumers and new smartphones to the victims of theft.

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