California Senate passes cellphone 'kill switch' bill, awaits governor's approval

Posted:
in iPhone edited August 2014
The California state Senate on Monday passed a bill crafted to protect against smartphone theft by requiring manufacturers turn on a "kill switch" when a device is first activated, something Apple currently employs in iOS as an opt-in feature.

Activation LockScreenshot of Apple's Activation Lock feature. | Source: Apple


California's legislative push to require so-called "kill switches" of smartphone manufacturers moved closer to becoming law, as a bill passed through the Senate with a final tally of 27-8, reports The Wall Street Journal. The state's governor, Jerry Brown, has 12 days to sign the bill into law.

State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who introduced the bill, believes the effort will help discourage smartphone thefts, a problem grown pervasive in some major metropolitan areas. According to the publication, California's initiative differs from similar legislation up for consideration in other states like New York in that it places an onus on manufacturers to have the security feature activated during initial device setup.

California's bill is joined by a federal anti-theft proposal called the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act, which would require all cellphones sold in the U.S. to include free kill switch technology. The proposal was introduced to Congress in February.

In April, Apple joined Google, HTC, Huawei, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia and Samsung, as well as all five major U.S. cellular providers, in supporting the CTIA's "Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment." The CTIA program is also opt-in, however, which Sen. Leno says is not enough to thwart the growing "epidemic" of smartphone thefts.

For its part, Apple already incorporates a remote locking mechanism into iOS with Find My iPhone, which uses an app and iCloud service connection to track, lock, disable and wipe data from an iPhone iPad or iPod touch. The most recent enhancement to Apple's security system came with the inclusion of Activation Lock in iOS 7.

Rolled out alongside new Find My iPhone password policies, the feature provides an extra layer of protection for users whose device was recently stolen. When enabled, the system prevents thieves from signing out of iCloud or erasing and reactivating the device without first entering preset credentials. Stripping away the ability to disable iCloud and restore the phone as new could dissuade theft and, in cases when an iPhone has been stolen, improve chances of recovery.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 32
    I'm curious to know the reasons why nearly a quarter of the senators voted against it.
  • Reply 2 of 32
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,740member

    The iPhone already has a better version of this, provided you've set a password (and TouchID makes that much more palatable).

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by grblade View Post



    I'm curious to know the reasons why nearly a quarter of the senators voted against it.

     

    Wait until hackers figure out how to activate smartphone kill switches, then get back to us.

  • Reply 3 of 32
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,217member
    It's a bandaid. There are other ways to turn a profit so will this really stop the thefts. Laws requiring cops to follow up on thefts where such tracking exists and prosecuting the thief might put a stop to them. But the kill switch really does nothing
  • Reply 4 of 32
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by grblade View Post



    I'm curious to know the reasons why nearly a quarter of the senators voted against it.

     

    This article explains it a little: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/08/with-a-change-of-heart-california-senate-approves-smartphone-kill-switch-law/

     

    Basically the wireless carriers are against it.  They say they're afraid of hackers gaining access, but with 3.1 million phones stolen in 2013, most consumers should be more worried about petty thieves than hackers.

  • Reply 5 of 32
    Dan_DilgerDan_Dilger Posts: 1,583member
    It's a bad idea for legislators who have little understanding of technology to write laws mandating specific implementations of a desired concept.

    If they want to regulate security, they should set minimum standards and allow the market to compete with different approaches.

    Currently, Apple solved the problem for most users who decide to opt-in, and everyone else waited on the sidelines to see if they'll be forced to deliver a similar solution.

    Apple even developed Touch ID as a very simple way to unlock your device without needing to punch in a passcode all the time, making it significantly easier to live with a passcode, and therefore much more likely that people will actually opt-in to Activation Lock.

    Saying that users must be forced to configure this, and then only have the option to shut it off afterward if they want to opt-out, is not an improvement.
  • Reply 6 of 32
    haggarhaggar Posts: 1,568member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by grblade View Post



    I'm curious to know the reasons why nearly a quarter of the senators voted against it.

     

    It would be helpful to see the voting history of those senators.  Do they vote in favor of free market or more regulation on other issues?

  • Reply 7 of 32
    Originally Posted by Corrections View Post

    Saying that users must be forced to configure this, and then only have the option to shut it off afterward if they want to opt-out, is not an improvement.

     

    And this concept extends to a great deal of things beyond physical security; most social networking services opt-in on transfer of personal information, software automatically opts-in on sending “anonymized” data about use to the developer, etc.

  • Reply 8 of 32
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,600member
    Apple needs to require a password to power off an iphone. This is the first thing thieves do.
  • Reply 9 of 32
    digitoldigitol Posts: 246member

    why does calif senate have to mandate this happen? I truly don't understand. While they are at it, I think keeping one's shoes tied at all times (remember safety first) should also be mandated. Am I out of line? 

  • Reply 10 of 32
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Originally Posted by digitol View Post

    why does calif senate have to mandate this happen? I truly don't understand. While they are at it, I think keeping one's shoes tied at all times (remember safety first) should also be mandated. Am I out of line? 



    All shoes will henceforth be forcibly modified to include laces, such that they can comply with the new law.

  • Reply 11 of 32
    calicali Posts: 3,494member
    jd_in_sb wrote: »
    Apple needs to require a password to power off an iphone. This is the first thing thieves do.

    Touch ID style.
  • Reply 12 of 32
    Can a Senator be equipped with a kill switch?
  • Reply 13 of 32

    I wonder how many future phones will be bought outside of CA just to take this control away from the state. They could have simply mandated the option being there without mandating activation. Does anyone know if there is an opt-out option when you buy one? I could really care less about the issue, but I am more concerned about the mandatory inclusion of a kill switch controlled by someone other than the user. 

  • Reply 14 of 32
    crowleycrowley Posts: 9,130member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Phone-UI-Guy View Post

     

    I wonder how many future phones will be bought outside of CA just to take this control away from the state.


    What makes you think this is controlled by the state?  The state are requiring it, but as far as I'm reading it's still very much at the control and discretion of the user?

  • Reply 15 of 32
    crowleycrowley Posts: 9,130member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Corrections View Post



    It's a bad idea for legislators who have little understanding of technology to write laws mandating specific implementations of a desired concept.



    If they want to regulate security, they should set minimum standards and allow the market to compete with different approaches.

    I don't think "a kill switch" is a particularly specific implementation, sounds very much like a minimum standard to me.

  • Reply 16 of 32
    jonoromjonorom Posts: 293member
    Since I was assaulted on the sidewalk in a busy part of the city in April by smartphone theives, even though I have an iPhone that was bricked within 1/2 hour. This wouldn't have happened if all smartphones had a kill switch.
  • Reply 17 of 32

    The kind of "kill switch" I want is similar to the one you get when you put in the wrong code ten times.  If I put in a specific wrong code, wipe and lock/kill (not brick) the phone immediately, making it impossible to reactivate without restoring a backup, or connecting it directly to my computer, or some other step that physically cannot be done while the police officer is trying to illegally search my phone.

  • Reply 18 of 32
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,001member
    jonorom wrote: »
    Since I was assaulted on the sidewalk in a busy part of the city in April by smartphone theives, even though I have an iPhone that was bricked within 1/2 hour. This wouldn't have happened if all smartphones had a kill switch.

    You were most likely targeted because you had a iPhone. Until it becomes virtually impossible to activate a stolen iPhone the thives will continue stealing them.
  • Reply 19 of 32
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by grblade View Post



    I'm curious to know the reasons why nearly a quarter of the senators voted against it.

     

    Simple - as @Haggar says, worries over hackers gaining access.  These are probably the senators who have Android phones.  The others have iPhones, so naturally they're not concerned about hackers :)

  • Reply 20 of 32
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    jonorom wrote: »
    Since I was assaulted on the sidewalk in a busy part of the city in April by smartphone theives, even though I have an iPhone that was bricked within 1/2 hour. This wouldn't have happened if all smartphones had a kill switch.

    You sure about that? You were probably assaulted by a bunch of young punks, right? The young and thieves tend to lack impulse control. If they see something they want, they'll take it, unless you can prevent such an occurrence with overwhelming force.
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