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California will require any smartphone sold in the state to include a “kill switch” that would render the phone useless to thieves. Smartphones have become an easily accessible cash cow for thieves, accounting for over 40% of thefts in 2012. Just last week, a man was severely beaten for his phone near my neighborhood in San Francisco.

To curb the growing trend, California Senate Bill SB 962 aims to make phones less attractive to thieves.

The bill text is surprisingly readable:

“Any smartphone that is manufactured on or after July 1, 2015, and sold in California after that date, shall include a technological solution at the time of sale, to be provided by the manufacturer or operating system provider, that, once initiated and successfully communicated to the smartphone, can render the essential features of the smartphone inoperable to an unauthorized user when the smartphone is not in the possession of an authorized user.”

Outside of California, industry lobbies are teaming up with wireless companies to set voluntary standards on a kill switch. A joint California and New York government report found that anti-theft features do have an impact on thefts. Apple products saw a 38% drop in robberies in the six months after the company introduced a kill switch feature.

It is an open question whether states or manufacturers will be the driving force behind making sure the majority of phones come with some sort of anti-theft feature in the future.


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