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California Introduces Smartphone Kill Switch Bill

It seems like a problem ripe for science-fiction: whether or not to mandate a permanent “kill switch” in mobile devices to stop the statistically high number of smartphone thefts in California. A bill was finally unveiled by State Sen. Mark Leno and District Attorney George Gascon of San Francisco that, if passed, will require all phones sold in California to have the ability by 2015.

According to, thefts of mobile phones “account for almost one in three U.S. robberies” and the instances are even higher in California. The proposed law would require the installation of a mechanism that could permanently disable the device, ending all potential for the phone to be reactivated in America or abroad.

Given that Americans currently spend about $7.8 billion in phone insurance, San Francisco Chief of Police Greg Suhr told the Associated Press, “I can’t imagine someone would vote against” this proposed law. However, CTIA, a trade group for wireless providers, disputes the assertion that phone insurance is its only worry.

The main concern about a permanent kill switch embedded in smartphones is that, like any device connected to the internet, it is susceptible to hacking. A recent NBC News report about hacking in Sochi, Russia is but one example of how vulnerable our data really can be. Government officials or public profile individuals who use smartphones could face an extra risk of attack from hackers looking to exploit the kill switch.

Phone insurance is both aggressively pushed by wireless providers and not a terrible idea for consumers who are purchasing very expensive pieces of technology. Shattered screens, broken buttons, and myriad other problems that can affect the phone make the insurance a product consumers want. It seems as if California lawmakers are treating a side-effect and not the disease. There are other ways to reduce this specific criminal problem than by placing restrictions on citizens and private companies.

Source: Associated Press, NBC News


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