California Passes ‘Kill Switch’ Law For Smartphones

California passed a law Monday which mandates a so-called ‘Kill Switch’ for every smartphone sold in the state, Computer World is reporting.

A ‘Kill Switch’ is a feature within a phone’s operating system that allows it to be rendered useless remotely. So, for example, if your phone were stolen, you could activate the Kill Switch, which would permanently lock the phone and wipe its data, essentially making it a worthless hunk of plastic.

The stated goal of the Kill Switch legislation is to make smartphones less appealing to thieves. The sponsor of the legislation, California State Senator Mark Leno, said in a statement:

“California has just put smartphone thieves on notice. Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb this crime of convenience, which is fueling street crime and violence within our communities.”

In Leno’s home district of San Francisco, smartphone theft accounts for 65 percent of all reported robberies. In nearby Oakland, it’s 75 percent. According to The New York Times, Apple is reporting that robberies of its products in San Francisco have gone down 38 percent since they began offering (voluntarily) Kill Switch features on iPhones.

Although the law only mandates Kill Switch-enabled smartphones in California, phone manufacturers aren’t likely to manufacture smartphones specifically for one state, meaning that California’s law will likely mean phones nationwide will now be fitted with Kill Switch technology, according to Time.

Some within the wireless industry have opposed the legislation. A spokesperson for CTIA, a wireless industry trade organization, tells Time:

“Today’s action was unnecessary given the breadth of action the industry has taken. Uniformity in the wireless industry created tremendous benefits for wireless consumers, including lower costs and phenomenal innovation. State-by-state technology mandates, such as this one, stifle those benefits and are detrimental to wireless consumers.”


One possible outcome of Kill Switch technology – intended or otherwise – is that it could be used against citizens. For example, if police were trying to affect a media blackout, similarly to what happened during the Ferguson unrest (see this Inquisitr article), they could essentially prevent all smartphone owners in a certain area from recording their activities, or even communicating with each other or the outside world.

However, language in the bill only gives officials the power to disable smartphones with a court order, or when necessary due to “immediate danger of death or great bodily injury,” according to Computer World.

Do you think mandated smartphone Kill Switch technology in all smartphones is a good idea? Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Image courtesy of: Colocation America