Smartphone and tablet theft has become a serious problem that legislators in California have announced a proposed legislation (Senate Bill 962) that will require a mobile device to have a built-in “kill switch” to render it unusable in case it gets stolen or lost. If everything goes according to plan the law will take effect starting January 1, 2015 making it the first of its kind in the United States.
State Sen. Mark Leno (Democrat) said that 50 percent of all robberies that occur in San Francisco involves smartphone theft and this figure increases to 75 percent in Oakland. Leno added that “With robberies of smartphones reaching an all-time high, California cannot continue to stand by when a solution to the problem is readily available. We are officially stepping in and requiring the cellphone industry to take the necessary steps to curb violent smartphone thefts and protect the safety of the very consumers they rely upon to support their businesses.”
Sen. Leno, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, and others are supporting this proposed measure saying that this will solve the problem. It will lower the price of black market smartphones since the stolen device will be rendered useless.
There’s still no information as to how this “kill switch” is to be implemented in devices. There are two options that might be considered. One is that the owner of the device will contact the service provider who will then deactivate the device. The second is that the username and password must be entered to reactivate the device otherwise it will become useless.
Senate Bill 962 requires mobile devices sold in California by January 1, 2015 to have a “technological solution” to render a lost or stolen smartphone/tablet unusable. “A technological solution may consist of software, hardware, or a combination of both … but shall be able to withstand a hard reset.” The legislation defines hard reset as a way of restoring the device to its original factory condition. It also states that only the owner of the device or someone selected by the owner will be authorized to deactivate the device and not the retailer.
Last year Samsung proposed to install a kill switch on its mobile devices however this was rejected by most of the U.S. carriers. This is primarily because the replacement of a lost or stolen smartphone and tablet is a $30 billion business in the US. The 4 major US carriers also make an estimated $7.8 billion in theft and loss insurance products.