Smartphone ‘kill switch’ bill due in January

A bill to protect smartphone users and discourage thieves will be formally introduced this January in the California state legislature.

Senator Mark Leno, representing San Francisco’s 11th District, and SF District Attorney Mark Gascon are proposing a law to require a mandatory “kill switch” be in place in all smartphones.

This “kill switch” would make the phones inoperable after being stolen, the law would be the first of its kind in the US.

Smart phone theft has been on the rise since the introduction of the iPhone. The ability for stolen phone users to wipe the phones clean and switch carriers creates a marketplace for thieves.

But AT&T, Verizon, Sprint & T-Mobile have all rejected the ‘kill switch’ idea, saying it could allow hackers to disable people’s phones. The technology has already been implemented in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Gascon believes that there would be no incentive for thieves if this “simple technological solution was implemented.”

Service providers continue to benefit from illegaly-obtained phones, and Gascon says they should stop being part of the problem.

 Leno said in a statement:

“One of the top catalysts for street crime in many California cities is smartphone theft, and these crimes are becoming increasingly violent.”

Currently the closest option for a “kill switch” on the Android platform targets only malware. Apple calls their solution “Activation Lock,” and it blocks a thief’s ability to disable the Find My iPhone app.

In January and February of 2013, 335 cellphones were reported stolen to San Francisco police, and about half of all robberies in the city are now smartphone-related, according to Mission Local.