California Governor Jerry Brown just signed a bill that requires all smartphones sold in California to come with mandatory “kill switches.” A few weeks ago, I thought the bill was a seemingly harmless piece of legislation that might decrease the number of smartphones stolen every year. I even wrote a blog post in support of the bill. I’ve since changed my mind.
The events in Ferguson, Mo. that followed the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown made me rethink my view.
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This week, the California Senate passed SB962, requiring all smartphones sold in the state on or after July 2015 to have “kill switch” software baked into the operating system. The law is aimed at reducing smartphone thefts by making it possible for users to remotely wipe their phones — and all their digital data — remotely if need be.
If you’re an iPhone user like me, you’re probably wondering why this is a big deal — or even a deal at all. The “Find my iPhone” app has been around for years now, after all. But surprisingly, the sensible idea of being able to self-destruct your phone if it’s stolen has yet to reach all smartphone makers. Though most companies have publicly embraced the idea of a “kill switch” for their devices, they have yet to make it happen.
The California law, while state specific, sends a strong message to would-be thieves (cough, Russian mob, cough) that curtailing smartphone theft is a priority. That’s good news for consumers – and therefore the entire mobile ecosystem – and bad news for crooks. The bill awaits Governor Brown’s signature.
— Mike Montgomery