The idea of including a kill switch in smartphones has yet to take off on the federal level but a new bill in California could require phone manufacturers to include kill switches in all phones sold in the state. Lawmakers believe the kill switches will help reduce the market for stolen phones.
Bill 962 proposed by District Attorney George Gascón and Senator Mark Leno has already received the support of several lawmakers in the state. If the bill passes, manufacturers would be forced to include kill switches or face fines of up to $2,500 for every device sold without the feature.
A Growing Problem
Cell phone theft has already become the most common type of property theft in the United States. In fact, according to the Federal Communications Commission, 30 percent to 40 percent of robberies involve cell phones.
In talking about Bill 962, Senator Mark Leno said that phone theft has become such a large issue in the U.S. and in California that sitting around and waiting for something to change is not a good idea.
"With robberies of smartphones reaching an all-time high, California cannot continue to stand by when a solution to the problem is readily available," says Leno. "We are officially stepping in and requiring the cellphone industry to take the necessary steps to curb violent smartphone thefts and protect the safety of the very consumers they rely upon to support their businesses."
Phones are already involved in a large portion of robberies around the US but the problem is significantly worse in California's large cities. According to police statistics, 50 percent of robberies in San Francisco involve mobile devices and in Oakland, that number is even higher at 75 percent.
We asked Jeff Kagan, an independent technology analyst, for his opinion on the bill and the requirement. He told us that it would be beneficial to have other options on the table and then get people talking about those options. But for right now, kill switches could work.
"There is a definite need for a solution to the problem of . . . wireless phone theft. Kill switches are one solution." says Kagan. "If we can come up with other ideas and debate them and decide on the best alternative we should do that. Otherwise kill switches make a lot of sense."