Smartphone Kill Switch Feature Now Mandatory In California

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By Vittorio Hernandez | August 29, 2014 9:32 AM EST

Beginning on July 1, 2015, all smartphones to be sold in California would have a kill switch. On Thursday, Aug 28, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill, introduced in February, into a law after it cleared the State assembly two weeks ago.

REUTERS/Steve Marcus
A journalist checks out a curved G Flex smartphone by LG Electronics during the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 6, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

By including anti-theft measures in smartphones sold in the state, the legislators hope that mobile units would become less attractive to petty criminals. The switch would allow the phone owner, whose unit is lost or was stolen, to remotely lock, wipe and disable the gadget.

This would prevent the thief from using the phone for personal benefit or to commit more crimes by using apps on the device to purchase items, solicit money from friends or relatives of the owner or to sell the unit.

State Senator Mark Leno and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon authored the bill that also allows the California Police to cut off phone services, but only during certain circumstances and would usually require a court order. The exception is during an emergency when there is a threat of death or great body injury.

Since the law did not specify how the system would lock the smartphone, it is up to the manufacturer to create their own system. Among Apple iPhone users, the feature is known as Activation Lock on its iOS 7. Google and Microsoft said they will introduce the feature in their upcoming models.

"California had just put smartphone thieves on notice ... Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb the crime of convenience, which is fueling street crime and violence within our communities," Leno said, quoted by PCWorld.

Minnesota passed a similar law in June, making California the second state to do so.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Steve Marcus / )
A journalist checks out a curved G Flex smartphone by LG Electronics during the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 6, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Marcus
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