Smartphones in California to require kill switches

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State Governor signs bill into law

The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act, SB 962, has been signed into California law by Governor Jerry Brown, in an attempt to put an end to mobile phone theft in the most populous US state.

The bill, which was introduced in February by San Francisco-based state Senator Mark Leno and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, will come into effect as of 1 July 2015.

It outlines that smartphones "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 unauthorised user."

In San Francisco and neighbouring Oakland, mobile phone theft reportedly occurs in more than half of all crimes committed. According to the US National Consumers League, 1.6 million Americans had their handsets stolen in 2012 - and almost double that in 2013.

The kill switch technology will allow victims of mobile phone theft to remotely lock their mobile phones and wipe them clean, rendering them useless to the thief.

Senator Leno commented: "Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb this crime of convenience, which is fuelling street crime and violence within our communities."

Consumers encouraged to activate kill switch option

The bill requires that manufacturers notify consumers that the smartphone comes with a kill switch option and suggest that they activate it. Analysts have predicted that these measures will save consumers almost $3.5 billion (£2.1 billion) every year.

In May, a similar law was passed in Minnesota after it was reported that mobile phone robberies, often at gunpoint, accounted for 62 per cent of the crimes committed on the University of Minnesota campus.

Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, has said: "Mobile phone theft is clearly as big a problem in the US as it is here - if not more so. Hopefully these preventative measures will make a difference there and we will see the same here. Apple, a California-based company, is releasing the iPhone 6 soon, so it will be interesting to compare the state's theft statistics before and after 1 July 2015."