New California bill demands smartphone ‘kill switch’

“A California state legislator has introduced SB 962, a bill that would require smartphones sold in the state to include a ‘kill switch’ that would ‘render inoperable’ the phone if it’s not in the possession of the rightful owner,” Joe Mullin reports for Ars Technica.

“California is the largest state in the US, and its laws have in the past become de facto national laws. The now-ubiquitous publication of privacy policies on Internet websites, for instance, is the result of a California state law,” Mullin reports. “The state has also led the nation in areas like rules around auto emissions.”

“The bill was introduced this morning by State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who says he’s responding to the rise of smartphone theft,” Mullin reports. “‘Today we are officially stepping in and requiring the cell phone 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,’ said Leno in introducing the bill. Wireless industry trade groups have opposed measures like Leno’s in the past. Leno and his allies, including San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, are hoping this bill will fare better than its predecessors in other states.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: You can have seventeen “kill switches” per smartphone and the root problem will remain untouched. What’s Leno’s next bill going to demand, exploding shoe laces on Air Jordans? Disintegrating pocketbook straps? Non-removable watches?

Related articles:
San Francisco District Attorney to Apple: Enable Activation Lock on every iPhone by default – December 18, 2013
Attorneys General for New York and San Francisco strongly urge iPhone and iPad users to download iOS 7 – September 19, 2013
S.F. district attorney optimistic over Apple, Samsung progress on anti-theft tech for smartphones – July 23, 2013
U.S. State and federal governments test Apple’s iOS 7 activation lock feature – July 18, 2013
U.S. officials call on Apple, other mobile device makers to help stop smartphone theft – June 6, 2013
The New York Times tries to blame Apple for smartphone thefts – May 2, 2013

40 Comments

    1. Kill Bill de ja vu all over again over a kill switch that already exists in every iPhone, iPad, MacBook and iMac!
      Is it any wonder Californi-ah-a’s economy is a basket case accelerating to hell in a handcart?
      Let that be a lesson to any state that has grand ideas of electing an actor as governor. Unless you provide them with a script and a director, don’t expect common sense to emanate from them.

      1. Uh, Ahnold hasn’t been governor for a few years. Neither has Reagan. Wake up.

        And there IS no kill switch on the iPhone as long as you can take out the SIM chip, pretty sure there’s nothing Find My iPhone can do. The Kill Switch they’re talking about would be tied to the phone’s internals, and nothing you could switch out in five seconds (which most smart thieves know).

        1. http://edition.cnn.com/2013/06/11/tech/mobile/iphone-ios7-kill-switch/index.html
          How can a person who is asleep tell one who is awake to wake up?
          The two guys you have mentioned left their respective wards virtually penniless, hence my play on film title words.
          If you have taken time to read that link from CNN, you will realize that the question you have asked is moot since that is exactly what Apple inc. have done and more, they have added fingerprint recognition as another layer.

          1. You may claim to be awake but you’re living in the past. California no longer has budget debt. Its tax receipts are running far ahead of expectations and are producing a budget surplus thanks both to an improving stock market and a program of increased sales and income taxes which the naysayers predicted would tank the economy but clearly have done the opposite. Forbes ranks California at #3 of all states for Growth Prospects.

        2. That is simply incorrect. You can take the SIM card out and the original owner can still disable the phone, the moment it is first connected to any network. In order for the thief to wipe the phone (before selling it to someone), he must be connected to the internet somehow. Without the SIM chip, he can use WiFi. The moment the phone is re-connected to WiFi after the original owner sent the “kill” request, the phone becomes disabled and only original owner can re-enable it.

    1. By population it is Cali in a walk. About 1 in 10 Americans live in the Golden State and Jerry Brown and the D’s in Sacramento are cleaning up years of mismanagement.

      BTW:
      The state is growing, the budget is balanced and a surplus is on the books. Governor Brown has suggested continuing fiscal responsibility and saving funds against a future downturn in a rainy day fund.

      Just like when Clinton was in the White House, it took a Democrat who could do math to bring in what Republicans bray about and promise- a balanced budget. The last Republican to submit a balanced Federal budget was Eisenhower.

      1. You are apparently referring to the California of a parallel universe, where the state isn’t completely broken, and lurching along solely on the strength of its population, which is being taxed to death, but has nothing to show for it.

          1. The difference is that Cali taxed the life out of its people and businesses in the short term,, the democrat-libtard way and businesses are leaving vs cutting costs, the republican way. California is so beautiful that people will sacrifice to live there Despite the over reaching liberal govt. I don’t live there so have it your way. Lets talk in ten years.

  1. A kill switch is a good idea… if implemented properly and very widely so most potential thieves know not to bother.

    The idea behind this is obviously one where only the owner is supposed to be able to initiate the process leading to a disabled phone. Only then would the phone manufacturer or the service provider would send out an encrypted code that bricks the phone.

    Notwithstanding MDN’s take, country-wide bricking capability for iPhone’s would be a deterrent for all but the newest or stupidest thieves.

    But the devil is in the details. One would want to be absolutely positive that hackers couldn’t take apart an iPhone and reverse engineer the bricking codes… or hack into Apple or a service provider to steal the codes. The potential is that some 17-year-old Russian hacker could disable millions of phones in a single day.

    1. I agree, I don’t understand what is MDN’s problem.
      Other than Apple, which has only recently stepped up to help solve the problem, the cell phone industry (yes, that includes Samsung, Verizon, and AT&T) has kind of ignored the problem.

      BTW – I kind of like the exploding shoe laces idea. 🙂

  2. The thing this bill fails to address is that damaged, non-functioning, and unusable iPhones still command a hefty premium if for nothing else just the parts. A kill switch won’t make an iPhone housing or screen unusable and therefore won’t do much to curb the current thefts. Only thing I can see this bill doing is creating a convenient way for the government to shut down mobile phones.

    1. MDN’s Take is pretty self-explanatory, but, here ya go:

      iPhones don’t steal iPhones, criminals steal iPhones (and expensive athletic shoes and pocketbooks and wristwatches).

      1. Actually, when my daughters iPhone was stolen, it wound up with someone who re-activated it. I thought about AT&T or Verizon saying “no problem, I’d be happy to activate your stolen phone. We don’t care if your iPhone has a stolen serial number, just as long as WE make money.”

        That kind of pissed me off!

      1. And don’t forget the brilliant plan for micro-stamping ammo. Now that’s the awesome kind of thinking coming out of the degenerate state of California.

        1. You’re right. Wouldn’t want police to track down people who shoot people, would you? That would just ruin their privacy. You’re probably against microtaggants added to explosives, and car-to-car communication to avoid accidents.

          I mean, what’s saving actual real lives when the fear of a make-believe boogeyman is there to scare you?

          1. Hey dummy, although you appear to believe everything those fools tell you, the micro-stamping scheme will not work. It’s expensive and can be overcome easily, and golly gee whiz, it doesn’t apply to law enforcement. Yep, never any shooting related incidents with those guys.

            The whole idea, like all the others, is to make it so expensive and such a hassle that people and the firearms industry give up on their 2nd Amendment rights in the state of California. It’s just another end run around the Constitution, so you go right on believing those left-wing politicians are looking after your well being.

          2. The idiotic law requires the firearm to micro stamp the make, model, and serial number of the firearm in TWO locations on the expended brass on each firing. This makes them not reloadable, hard to eject, and the firearm and ammunition VERY expensive, which is the point of this idiotic law. Any criminal would easily disable the micro stamping on any firearm before using it to commit a crime, collect the expended brass cartridges, or use an older weapon for his crime. Black market guns without this stamping would be easy to buy or steal. Micro tags added to explosives was shown to be impractical, never was workable in the first place, and not a useful law enforcement tool in any case. Most terrorist bombs in that would need to be traced are made of ANFO—ammonium nitrate and fuel oil—cheap and easy to get, or black powder, easily made and not amenable to tagging, or explosives from foreign military sources, not commercial sources that are already easily traceable. You seem to want fantasy solutions to problems that can’t be solved by throwing technology at them like smart guns, taggants, or other things that we just can’t do that politicians want to enshrine in law to actually economically ban what they can’t ban politically. In actual fact the number of murders that have been solved by tracing guns by their registrations is almost zero. . . and that would be the case for micro stamping as well.

  3. Uk and Ireland have had this for years. If a phone is reported lost or stolen, it is disabled or “killed” by all the mobile networks so it can’t be used again.

    1. But they have to have the IMEI number for it to work, and it absolutely does NOT stop scumbags stealing phones; they don’t give a shit because it’ll be sold on to someone who’s ignorant about kill-switches, or sent abroad and hacked, or broken up for spares. Find My iPhone is far more effective.

  4. No way.
    Why is the government concerned about smart phone theft?
    Hmmm. I believe they have more important things to do than nuke cells phones when they think the government is being overthrown.

    1. How about the statistic that 19% of thefts in New York City involved stealing an Apple mobile device last year as a starting point? 1/5 of all thefts in a major city involve stealing a device that can be made useless with a kill switch might go a long way to convincing the thieves to go back to purse snatching as a more profitable vocation. . .

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