The state Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would require cell phone manufactures to include a switch that would render the phone inoperable if it falls into the wrong hands.
Nearly four months after the Legislature shot down a similar measure, the bill now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.
If signed, California would become the second state in the nation to require such legislation.
The bill would require phones made after July 1, 2015, to include a feature that would allow owners to remotely deactivate their phones if the devices were stolen until they are — and only if they are — recovered.
“This legislation will literally stop smartphone thieves in their tracks by ensuring all new smartphones sold in California come pre-enabled with theft-deterrent technology,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), said in a statement after the bill passed the Assembly last week. “ [This is] huge victory for California’s smartphone consumers and mobile users across the nation who are regularly victimized for their cell phones.”
According to data released by the San Francisco District Attorney, more than half the theft in San Francisco and more than three-quarter the theft in Oakland involved a smart phone.
Proponents of the kill switch say it will deter criminals and they have data to back their claims. After Apple introduced the “Activation Lock,” theft of Apple products dropped between 19 percent and 29 percent in New York in just the first five months of 2014. In San Francisco, iPhone robberies declined by 38 percent.
Thefts of phones without the kill switch, however, increased, some by 40 percent.
Opponents of the measure, who helped killed the bill in April say that hackers could exploit such capability and they also raised privacy concerns.
In an open letter to Leno, the wireless trade group, CTIA said the bill “will have negative consequences to consumer security and public safety.”
Several phone makers have already announced features on their phones to deter theft. Microsoft will offer an update for its “Find My Phone” program for all phones running Windows 8.0 and newer. Google announced that its Android platform will include a factory reset feature to deter thefts.
If Brown signs the bill, California will join Minnesota as the second state to pass a law to require such a feature on smart phones.
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: