California Senate passes mandatory smartphone ‘kill switch’ bill

“California’s Senate passed a bill requiring smartphone makers such as Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. to include technology that would let customers remotely wipe data from their devices and render them inoperable when stolen,” Michael B. Marois reports for Bloomberg. “The same legislation was rejected a month ago amid pressure from the industry. The author of the legislation, San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno, amended the bill to exclude tablets from the mandate and to extend the date it becomes effective by six months to allow companies to sell off existing supplies.”

“A similar bill passed out of the Minnesota Senate May 2. San Francisco is considering its own law and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pushing for federal legislation,” Marois reports. “Under the new bill, smartphones sold in California must include the technology starting in July 2015. While the bill was passing 25-8, the margin in the Democratic-controlled Senate can change as absent members continue to enter votes. The state Assembly, also controlled by Democrats, will consider the legislation next.”

“Apple, based in Cupertino, California, the second-largest maker of smartphones, had opposed the original legislation. The company withdrew its objection after the bill was amended, Leno said,” Marois reports. “While Apple won’t discuss its position on the legislation, the company already offers security options for its devices, said spokesman Colin Johnson. Apple phones and tablets can be protected with applications that allow the owner to track the location of the device and remotely set a passcode or erase all personal data if stolen, he said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: This is a sorry admission that the state cannot adequately protect its law-abiding citizens from the criminals who prey upon them.

Minimizing the attractiveness of objects to thieves is not the same as minimizing thievery. It is akin to putting a band-aid on a skin cancer patient. The cancer is still there, lurking. The thieves still exist; they’ll simply turn back to stealing wallets, jewelry, purses, and even the sneakers off your feet.

Imagine if the lawmakers instead actually adequately dealt with the thieves and the causes (drugs, mainly) that make them steal property from others? Law-abiding citizens would then actually be able to freely walk about with their property, enjoying life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (hey, that sounds vaguely familiar) instead of hiding their smartphones (as authorities in some major cities actually advise in another blatant admission of their failure), cowering in fear, ready to flip the “kill switch” at any moment the expected crime occurs (for which they are often basically blamed: “Why’d you use your iPhone out in public?”).

The problem is not the iPhone. The problm is not the iPhone owner. The problem is the criminal. iPhones don’t steal iPhones. Criminals steal iPhones (and purses, wallets, watches, sneakers, and whatever else they can fence for drug money).

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? Empty pocketbooks? Non-removable watches?

Politicians who apply band-aids in order to make the local news (“Look, I hid the cancer for a day or so! Mindlessly reelect me!”) should be replaced by those who can perform the surgery that is so desperately required to cure the suffering patient.

Big ideas, not little. Steve Jobs, not Michael Dell.

Related articles:
Will Apple’s ‘kill switch’ tamp down iPhone thefts? – May 4, 2014
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

57 Comments

  1. Typical political stupidity. Trying to legislate morality by penalizing manufacturers/end users won’t work. Not to mention the fact that this ‘feature’ may be able to be surreptitiously activated by unscrupulous individuals and/or governments.

    Well done, California.

    This bill will have severe unintended consequences.

    1. This bill changes nothing for the iPhone, except make Find My iPhone opt-out instead of opt-in. It doesn’t have any penalty for end users, nor does it have a penalty for manufactures. The only fine that be made is against retailers.

      Has Find My iPhone ever been abused by hackers or the government?

      Again, this bill doesn’t change that. Hackers or the government, without this bill could still shut down any phone at the carrier. And as far as the iPhone is concerned, it has zero impact on the potential risk of abuse of Find My iPhone.

        1. Most likely won’t be.

          The FMP system is one that is fault tolerant by design, meaning that in the event of a breach the system could shut down. A shut down of the system doesn’t render iPhone inoperable, just the opposite, during the down time, iPhones couldn’t be disabled.

          This is much different from the easier target of the carrier. Any down time there results in immediate and lasting outage until the system is restored and back on line.

          As far as abuse from the government, again, the carrier is the target. The government through the carrier has the ability today to out an entire area if they wanted, FMP doesn’t have that ability. Through the carrier, service can be toggled on and off for a group, region, individual, etc… Additionally, through the carrier, service can be cut by the government, but the phone still tracked.

          However, if you suffer from foolish paranoia when it comes to FMP, you can always opt-out. Opt-out is a part of this bill.

          Where were people like you when Apple implemented Find My iPhone? Why weren’t you complaining then?

  2. I hope the kill switch system is safe from hackers.

    Can you imagine what would happen if a hack was developed and all the phones that contained the kill switch were remotely wiped at the same time?

    1. Yes, the government will hold hearings, tech executives will excoriated, and then the companies will be fined for improperly securing user data.

    2. Oh, so the next time there is a war, one side will deactivate the phones of all their opponents … OR

      A political party ‘opperative’ will do that just before the next election.

    3. Do you have an iPhone? Are you afraid that a hacker could wipe all the iPhones today with Find My iPhone? What’s the difference?

      Do you have a phone at all? Are you afraid that a hacker could deactivate all phones today through the carrier? What’s the difference?

  3. MDN you are wrong – there is nothing wrong with forcing manufacturers to add fundamental features as it happened with car seatbelt for example and there are many more examples.

    This is simply raising the bar, it is not meant to be a cure. Apple tends to have far more social responsibilities and they tend to lead but there are many who are not paying attention and choose crap from SameSung pushing our crap fast without the slightest care for the environment, its workers, and least f all any care for its customers. There is no way SameShit company would do anything such as the intent of this bill without being forced.

    The society needs to set minimum set of standards for companies wanting to sell in US of A.

    PS. I agree that politicians are always behind the scene and controlled by lobby $s and our highest court has made it easy for more $s so they can easier pay for their politicians and judges.

    1. Your comment is ridiculous. If people are that concerned about being able to wipe their phones if they are lost/stolen, then they should not buy a phone which does not include such technology. There’s no reason for the state to require a certain technology when, if the demand is there, the market will introduce it (as Apple’s products already offer and have for years).

      1. I agree that legislating what market demand should take care of is something that shouldn’t be done without a very compelling reason, but I think this is an example of where it makes sense.

        Here’s the problem…

        Find My iPhone doesn’t prevent someone from stealing your iPhone, or even dissuade someone from doing so. It only removes the ability to profit from that risky act if you have Find My iPhone enabled. With a low percentage of enabled iPhones, the likelihood of profit from stealing an iPhone remains high.

        As such, people steal iPhones. Some are career criminals, muggers and the like, others are people in service oriented jobs who “find” iPhones.

        There’s little demand for kill switches today from consumers because a kill switch doesn’t protect your phone from being stolen. Those who sell phones have no incentive to implement and push for kill-switch technology since it’s an added cost and they sell more phones without it.

        This is why only Apple (who does things differently) offers it, but it’s opt-in, and Samsung only half-assedly offers it on one model on one carrier.

        For career criminals, all phones are in play. For the opportunity criminal, most likely they’ll not even know that Find-My-iPhone exists or think about it being turned on.

        Once it’s very common that pretty much all phones are worthless if stolen, the risk-to-reward incentive will drop to the point where nobody bothers whether it’s career or opportunity.

    1. Probably none. The debit card is much more valuable than cash because of the information a thief can take with a magnetic stripe reader.

      If California were truly concerned about people’s safety, it would introduce legislation to require credit and debit card issuers to implement much more secure technology in their cards (chips) so that the decades-old magnetic stripe technology, which is easily defeated, is replaced.

      1. dunno, I don’t think most muggers are that smart. I still think that thieves knowing that potential victims are probably not carrying cash are less likely to be victimized. Would be hard to prove, though.

  4. MDN’s take is, frankly, rather shallow; it boils down to “Government is not doing its job, because thieves are still out there.” Got news for you, friends – thieves have ALWAYS been out there, and likely always WILL be out there.

    The real underlying problem is the decline in general morality, in that many more people nowadays, when faced with a situation where they can help themselves to something that is not theirs with little risk of getting caught at it, will steal that item without another thought. Government — and its parasites, the politicians — has compounded this by creating a culture of entitlement, where people view it as their right to “get” money, housing, food, health care, phones, and just about everything else for free, caring only enough to vote again for the politicians that continue to make it so with public money – the money that taxpayers like you and I pay with the understanding that it will be used tor the general benefit, not to buy votes.

    While it really isn’t the place of government to demand a cell phone kill switch, I think it’s certainly in Apple’s best interest to trumpet this advantage over other phone brands.

    1. Spot on!

      MDN: “This is a sorry admission that the state cannot adequately protect its law-abiding citizens from the criminals who prey upon them.”

      Sorry, incorrect. I am having dinner at the Brown Derby in El-Lay and someone lifted my iPhone from the table while I was draining the dragon.

      How in all of creation can we expect the state to keep this from happening?

      Sensible legislation, let it pass.

      1. Why in the world would you go to the restroom and leave your iPhone on the table? Seems to me MDN’s take is completely accurate in your case –– if you had taken your iPhone with you, it would not have been stolen.

        And since your iPhone already has the capability to be remotely wiped and locked, why then do we need California’s legislation?

        1. Um, happy hour?

          You raise a good point that Apple technology already allows and possibly extraneous legislation is an over reach of government.

          Democrats in charge. Gee, what a surprise. 🙂

      1. In California they don’t make movies advocating good citizenship. Quite the contrary, they glorify criminals and death row inmates. Does life imitate art?

    2. You’re ridiculous. There has not been any “decline in general morality” as you claim. People in the Middle Ages robbed and killed each other over loaves of bread. There always has been and always will be that segment of society which thinks it is easier to steal than work and earn.

  5. The MDN take is asinine. It is and will always be impossible to defend citizens from random acts of violence or theft. That’s like saying rather than having fire alarms and fire proof materials… the Fire Department should be able to predict and prevent fires from even starting.

    While I do agree that this legislation is stupid, it’s got nothing to do with the authorities not doing their job. The ONLY good this will accomplish is put this fact out in the public conscious, which may in fact keep thieves from taking cell phones, but even if that were the case, it certainly won’t stop them from robbing you of something else.

    Pointless.

    1. I fail to see what is asinine about asking the government to actually address the underlying causes of crime in order to properly protect law-abiding citizens.

    2. Pointless? Try clueless.

      This legislation as you regretfully admitted will help deter thieves from stealing iPhones.

      Tell me again how this is a bad thing.

      As to your silly point of leaving my iPhone alone and stealing my shirt, car or dog, now that is POINTLESS.

      1. No, it won’t prevent thieves from stealing iPhones. No thief thinks they’ll get caught, nor are they going to not steal your iPhone just because it may get wiped. You’re assuming they’re after your data. They can still sell the iPhone on Ebay, wiped and unlocked.

        1. Yes, thieves steal.

          So you are saying the legislation will do zero to deter criminal activity and zero accountability on tracking stolen iPhones sold on the Internet?

          The last time I checked, selling stolen goods is a crime wherever the transaction is processed.

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