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California governor signs 'kill switch' bill into law

Apple picking won't be so fruitful anymore
Tue Aug 26 2014, 16:50
Jerry Brown signed a mobile phone "kill switch" law on Monday that requires the security feature to be enabled by default at sale

CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR Jerry Brown signed a mobile phone "kill switch" law on Monday that requires the security feature to be enabled by default at sale.

The bill was passed by the California state legislature two weeks ago, making it the first state in the US to require that all smartphones sold include a "kill switch" as standard.

A "kill switch" enables the owner to lock a mobile phone if it is stolen, on the theory that strongarm robbers and thieves won't steal smartphones that will soon be bricked and thus rendered inoperable and therefore worthless. The bill was written by California state senator Mark Leno and sponsored by San Francisco district attorney George Gascon.

Smartphone robberies and thefts have become what law enforcement has called an "epidemic" in the US, with one in 10 smartphone owners having had a phone stolen, according to mobile security firm Lookout. Consumer Reports has said that smartphone thefts doubled in 2013 from the previous year, leaving three million US victims.

In San Francisco, 65 percent of robberies involved thefts of mobile devices in 2013, and 75 percent in Oakland across the bay. Police forces have even thought up a name for it. They call it "Apple picking".

In a statement issued just after the bill was passed, Gascon said, "Seldom can a public safety crisis be addressed by a technological solution, but today wireless consumers everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief." Mark Leno chimed in, "California has just put smartphone thieves on notice."

The "kill switch" law will go into effect in California on 1 July 2015. It will likely set the standard for smartphones sold throughout the entire US, given California's cultural and economic influence. µ

 

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