California Approves Smartphone 'Kill Switch' Bill



The California legislature yesterday passed a bill requiring that smartphones sold in the state be equipped with an anti-theft "kill switch" that can remotely render the device inoperable if stolen.

S.B. 962, which was introduced by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and passed 28-8, is unique among state-level kill switch bills, because it "would require manufacturers to prompt consumers to enable the 'kill switch' at the initial setup of a new device," as opposed to letting customers opt-in later, explains The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

"I think as any number of issues here in California, when we act it becomes the de facto way business is done across the country," says Leno, who believes that his bill will help end the "epidemic" of smartphone thefts. "About 3.1 million American consumers were victims of smart phone theft in 2013," according to Consumer Reports. That's a lot, but not that much in the grand scheme of things. There are an estimated 327,577,529 mobile phones (not even counting the other mobile devices) in use in the U.S., which is more phones than citizens.

The state stands to make some cash by passing the law. One provision declares that "the knowing retail sale of a smartphone in California in violation of [the law] may be subject to a civil penalty of not less than five hundred dollars ($500), nor more than two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), per smartphone sold in California in violation."

Although it seems like a step forward now, legislation moves at a much slower pace than technology, so S.B. 962 regulations may be holding back future innovations by the time the ink dries. The cellphone industry isn't opposed to anti-theft tools; there exist plenty of them already.

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association issued a statement in opposition to the bill, noting some foreseeable downsides:

We urge the Governor to not sign this bill, since uniformity in the wireless industry created tremendous benefits for wireless consumers, including lower costs and phenomenal innovation. State by state technology mandates, such as this one, stifle those benefits and are detrimental to wireless consumers.

New York, Illinois, and Rhode Island are considering kill switch bills, and Minnesota passed one this year.

Gov. Jerry Brown has 12 days to take action on the bill. A spokesman for the governor told WSJ that he won't comment on pending legislation. If he does approve, the bill would take effect in July 2015. 

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  1. New York, Illinois, and Rhode Island are considering kill switch bills

    Why is Rhode Island always a copycat?

    1. They outsourced their legislature to save costs.

  2. Will the po-po have a switch with them at all times? That could be handy to have right before instructing civilians to stop resisting.

    1. That’s probably the actual intention of the bill. Nobody in the legislature gives a shit about plebes jacking one another’s phones.

      But giving the cops a “get out of embarrassing video evidence free” card and having a way to completely cut off a whole neighborhood in one fell swoop? Now that’s a legislative priority.

      1. I thought this sounded like a cool feature until you damn libertarian cynics (or is it cynical libertarians?) ruined it for me!

        1. Yeah, one would think the market might be able to take care of this, but I guess not.


        2. cynical libertarians

          No need to be redundant.

  3. 1) There must be a way to undo this software.

    2) Buy from out of state.

    1. Phone makers won’t make California phones and then phones for the rest of us. So the rest of us will once again be victims of CA regulation. The same fucking reason I cant buy a gas can that actually works.


      1. Possibly the worst state ever. Especially LA.

          1. You know Cincinnati is better than LA. This article proves it.

      2. Best reason to split up california. I hate giving them 10 extra senators but they are too large.

        1. Easy fix – One California consisting of rural areas, 15 new Territories without congressional representation.

        2. Well you’d probably get a more Republican senate. Not saying if that’s good or bad, just that it would probably tilt right rather than left.

      3. All manufacturers in the US, hear me.

        When California regulates your product, if you simply stop selling your product in that state, I will gladly pay the difference for your loss of CA sales.

        As CA goes, so goes the country…er wait…fuck you CA!

      4. There has to be a limit to this. Eventually Cali will drive out all the manufacturing and people will be too poor to be worth catering to.

        1. It’s the most populous state, so what you suggest is not likely to happen.

      5. We call them “Gore cans” they have ENORMOUS energy bills.

          1. But I shouldn’t need to do this. Doesn’t innovation mean I’m supposed to get shit that’s MORE useful instead of less?

            1. Interesting to see what people often have to do to get around “health and safety” regulations.

      6. See “California emissions” on cars.

  4. Doesn’t keeping the phone working help catch crooks when they shoot their inevitable selfie?

  5. “I think as any number of issues here in California, when we act it becomes the de facto way business is done across the country,” says Leno,

    So basically California legislators think their shit doesn’t stink and want to subject the rest of the country to their whims.

    This is the prime example of why the state SHOULD be broken into pieces.

  6. I wonder if there’s some clause that requires a backdoor enabling the government to use the feature at will.

    1. I wonder if there’s some clause that requires a backdoor enabling the government to use the feature at will.

      No you don’t.

  7. One more example of the government artificially inflating prices. If there were demand for this feature, companies would include it on their own…

    1. There is, and they do. This is an example of a legislator “leading from behind” to try to get free (for him) publicity.

  8. Does the California legislature have a kill switch?

    1. PS – I’m referring to the legislature as a corporate body, I’m not referring to the individuals in it. Thank you.

      1. Both of those would be a good idea.

  9. Why is this needed? Is there a way to factory reset a phone without having my passcode? What good is stealing my phone if you cant get in?

    1. Fashion accessory?

    2. Why is this needed?

      It is not needed. I had a phone stolen a while back, called the company and had them shut it off, no government required. They even credited the calls placed between the time it was stolen and the time I had them shut it off.

      1. Unpossible!

    3. Because the camera is the new gun, and the camera that can stream unedited video directly to the internet is the GAU-8 of cameras.

  10. Why doesn’t the “FREE MARKET” handle this?

    Why do we need the Gobmint to get involved and wright a law that disables a phone if stolen. The Phone company can disable it if you stop paying the bill. You don’t need to call the phone company for that.

    The phone company only reacts when the police show up and bully them in a “High Crime” situation. God forbit that someone in the Phone company can take a requests to turn off, and god forbit again, give the location of the phone.

    1. You could scroll up or down to see everything you just drooled into your sippy cup already stated or addressed. Your choice.

  11. It would be nice if a carrier decided they wouldn’t offer phones in California. Let them pay full retail for them.

    Won’t happen, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

  12. Read that as Kill Bill switch.

  13. I didn’t realize that Sunny Minnesoda had passed a kill switch bill. I’m not surprised, just didn’t realize it.

    I went to search for the loon who wrote the bill and sure enough it was one of the usual suspects. Joe Atkins

    According to Atkins and the others the U of MN is a hotbed of armed assaults by thieves looking to steal phones and tablets.

    But the key focus of the drive behind the law is not recovery of property. Atkins said the impetus for the bill came at lunch with his sons, both U students, last year at a Dinkytown restaurant when he set his phone on the table.
    “My oldest son said ‘Dad you’re going to get us killed,’ and I honestly didn’t know what he was talking about,” Atkins said. “I was completely oblivious to what an epidemic smartphone theft was.”

    My daughter went to the U recently and I never heard her talk about how dangerous it was to have a smart phone on campus. I want some numbers before I retire to my fainting couch.

    1. You know why I really hate Joe Atkins? Because he was one of the guys who spiked the approval of powdered alcohol in Sunny Minnesoda.


      “Virtually every possible use for powdered alcohol is nefarious, not to mention potentially dangerous,” said Rep. Atkins. “The different flavorings make it appealing to children and students who could easily sneak packets into school. This powder could also be inhaled or snorted, bringing a whole new world of problems into play.

      “With how quickly this is moving, we shouldn’t wait until next session to deal with this issue. We need to move quickly to protect public health

      I know that all my friends who go into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area were devastated when this happened. I guess they didn’t realize that wanting to pack in their hooch in powder form was nefarious.

      1. Progressives… Your body, the Health Department’s choice.

    2. Ah yes, the infamous non-verifiable anecdote about bad stuff, brutally effective when speaking to the elderly and soccer moms.

    3. Atkins two sons sound like pansies.

      1. Well, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, eh?

        1. Well, the fruit

          I see what you did there.

    4. My oldest son said ‘Dad you’re going to get us killed,’

      The statement probably had nothing to do with smartphone theft.

  14. Wait, is this a really complicated hardware redesign? I haz confused why this would force all phones manufactured to now include it. Gas generators are sold as X or X+$250 for the CARB-compliant model.

    1. Given that it’s California, they’ll probably institute a cellphone impact fee on phones purchased outside the state.

    2. Wait, is this a really complicated hardware redesign?

      I would think software.

      1. That makes me think it would be even less of an issue.

  15. I want a remotely activated C4 device in my phone

    1. I want a remotely activated C4 device in your phone.

  16. The California legislature yesterday passed a bill requiring that smartphones sold in the state be equipped with an anti-theft “kill switch” that can remotely render the device inoperable if stolen.

    Huh? I had to “kill” one of my doctor’s devices because it kept locking his account out. This already exists.

    Or is this a government-designed kill switch? If you get my meaning.

    1. Or is this a government-designed kill switch? If you get my meaning.

      Absolutely. Having a disturbance somewhere, shut down the phones so people can not see their fine officers at work.

      1. It’s too bad elected officials don’t come with a kill switch.

  17. So in 10 years when smart phones are $25 what the fuck will be the point of this?

    1. The same point to almost every law in California. Power.

  18. I suspect the carriers will love this. Get behind on your cell bill, get your phone killed by the carrier.

    See? Nothing, but nothing, done in the CA legislature doesn’t have a crony angle.

    1. Why can’t we use something I call “the market” to provide this feature? If I want it, I can pay for it. Why does it need to be mandated by law, and, for that matter, what business is it of any government to mandate something of this nature?

      1. Because sometimes “the market” fails. And by fail I mean it doesn’t do what a small number of people think it should do. So it’s the duty of that small number of people to correct these market failures with very real threats of violence. The alternative is chaos.

        1. Some ideas are so good that only coercion can make people adopt them.

          1. Democrats: ideas so good they’re mandatory.

      2. My Windows Phone already does this.

        Of course, swapping out the SIM card right away negates all of this.

        1. My freaking Blackberry does this.

  19. I think most of us agree that secession is legal in the U.S., despite the Civil War. But is reverse secession–i.e., the ejection of a state from the union? Discuss amongst yourselves.

    1. Maybe we can enact a blockade of California.

        1. Sanctions?

          1. Sanctioned embargoes with blockades?

            1. And a border fence.

    2. Well, I suppose anything is legal with a constitutional amendment. You just need 3/4 of states to agree.

      1. True. I’ve explained this to people before in noting that the Constitution isn’t the perfect document of liberty.

        1. Hell, no one even reads it anymore…

  20. “would require manufacturers to prompt consumers to enable the ‘kill switch’ at the initial setup of a new device,”

    Yeah, it’s prompt now. I’m sure it will end up like the “presidential messages” broadcasts, that can’t be disabled.

    I predict much more jailbreaking and rooting will occur in the affected states.

    1. Which I’m sure California will make illegal, too.

  21. It’s an epidemic. What does the CDC have to say?

  22. What arrogant idiots. “Sure, let’s make our bill different from every other state, no problem there, it’s not like that would affect the manufacturing and distribution of millions of phones or anything.” NEWSFLASH: California’s role as a trendsetter ended a few decades ago, like with the Beach Boys. Other states don’t want to follow California into the black hole of insolvency.

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