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California Rejects 'Kill Switch' Requirement Legislation for Smartphones

California legislators narrowly rejected a bill that would require smartphone manufacturers like Apple to preload and automatically enable antitheft "kill switch" in their phones, according to CNET. The law was backed by California State Senator Mark Leno and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.
Failing to reach a minimum of 21 votes in favor, the final tally was 19 yes's to 17 no's, with one senator not voting. Leno told CNET that he plans to take the bill up again next week. "The game is not yet over," he said.
ios7_activation_lock
Gascon accused opposition of the bill of protecting the interest of the "billion dollar industry profits" of the wireless industry and their insurance partners. Though some critics of the plan note that wiping software and locking phones would be ineffectual as thieves are likely to sell the device's hardware components.

The law was unlikely to affect Apple much, as the company introduced its own antitheft technology with iOS 7's Activation Lock feature, which locks a device to a user's iCloud account and is automatically turned on when Find My iPhone is enabled. However, Apple would likely have to make Find My iPhone mandatory to meet the requirements of Leno's bill.

Activation Lock won cautious optimism from both Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman when it was announced at 2013's WWDC.

The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act, a federal bill that would also mandate the inclusion of a "kill switch" in smartphones, has been introduced at the national level.

Top Rated Comments

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19 weeks ago
NOOOOOOOOO NOW WHAT WILL I DO TO MAKE SURE MY PHONE DOESNT GET STOLENNNNNN??????

Oh, wait. Activation Lock was already in iOS 7? So innovation occurs without the involvement of government bureaucrats??? Who knew?:rolleyes:
Rating: 17 Votes
19 weeks ago
A law so stupid not even the California legislature would pass it.
Rating: 12 Votes
19 weeks ago

Though some critics of the plan note that wiping software and locking phones would be ineffectual as thieves are likely to sell the device's hardware components.


What use is hardware if it can't be used beyond a movie prop? At least in San Francisco, the market is for quickly flipping a device and selling it for a few bucks. From now on, anyone involved in the iPhone black market is a sucker if they purchase an iPhone without checking its functionality. Now if they want to make money, they have to take it to someone who knows what to do with camera modules, flash chips, etc.?

Am I missing something, or doesn't this still seriously deflate the incentive to steal an iPhone? Even if not 100% of users enable it, I feel like it would be a "poison pill" type deal where it seriously complicates a thieve's job.

1) Fewer thefts will be profitable 2) Transactions will take longer and involve greater contact between buyers/sellers 3) The market shifts from selling whole phones to components 4) Overall risk/reward ratio goes way down.
Rating: 5 Votes
19 weeks ago
If their customers want it, companies will do it on their own without being forced to. And if company doesn't implement it, then customers are free to leave for the competition.
Rating: 5 Votes
19 weeks ago
I don't know if I want a 'Kill Switch' available in the phones. I am not normally paranoid, but it seems like something governments would use against their people. I imagine that the Arab Spring a few years ago, which relied heavily on phones to tweet, Facebook, and text each other, might have had different results if their oppressive leaders could convince the phone companies to "kill" the phones of suspected protestors.
Rating: 4 Votes
19 weeks ago
Good. The features of a smartphone are best left between companies and their customers. The legislature of California has far more important issues it should be working on. If there ever were a need for government involvement, it should be at a national or international level so that a huge amount of time and money isn't wasted debating this over and over again in tens or hundreds of local governments.
Rating: 4 Votes
19 weeks ago

If their customers want it, companies will do it on their own without being forced to. And if company doesn't implement it, then customers are free to leave for the competition.

Indeed. Pressure from customers as well as the PR effects of public shaming from various individuals and police forces would have led to this type of feature without government intervention making said intervention a redundant waste of money. Meanwhile governments sit by silently on issues where they actually could make a difference, such as net neutrality. People need to learn the proper place for government intervention.
Rating: 4 Votes
19 weeks ago

There is no difference between a 'nanny state' and a 'corporate nanny'. If anything, most of the time the nanny state is trying to protect you, your interests, and your freedom from the corporate nanny who has significantly more influence over your information, decision making and purchases.

Corporations do not care about you. They only care about your money.

This is the government legislating to give users control over their devices, to protect the user's data and deter theft.

Nobody is saying that corporations are benevolent. However, there are certain types of issues that are most efficiently dealt with via market mechanisms. Would it be a good idea for the government to protect you by regulating the price of everything in the grocery store? Or to regulate how fast MacDonald's should be able to make you a sandwich? No. To enforce such fine-grained micro-management would require an enormously expensive and abusively powerful government that would cost a fortune to run and also stifle innovation. Rather, the government need only set up a market and ensure that it is functional and market pressures will force companies to do the right thing whether they want to or not.

In the case of smartphones, there is already a thriving market and consumers can get what they want in terms of phone features. Fine-grained government control of individual features such as anti-theft features simply isn't required. If there were a role for government, it would be at the market level, for example by reforming the patent process or implementing net neutrality. It would not be this kind of silly micro-management.

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Activation Lock only works if the thieves know about it. If you generalize that most thieves aren't the brightest and they therefore don't know about Activation Lock, they're still going to steal the phone and then there will just be a very frustrated thief with a shiny brick and and even more frustrated iPhone owner.

Apple needs to advertise this feature more robustly so that the word spreads and the incentive to steal iPhones is diminished.

Most phones aren't stolen by first-time thieves- they will learn and word will get round in such circles. The people who really need educating are the fools who have their phone set to never require a password and the those who haven't yet upgraded to iOS 7, the latter group seems to be quite over-represented on these forums.
Rating: 2 Votes
19 weeks ago

Good. The features of a smartphone are best left between companies and their customers. The legislature of California has far more important issues it should be working on. If there ever were a need for government involvement, it should be at a national or international level so that a huge amount of time and money isn't wasted debating this over and over again in tens or hundreds of local governments.


There is no difference between a 'nanny state' and a 'corporate nanny'. If anything, most of the time the nanny state is trying to protect you, your interests, and your freedom from the corporate nanny who has significantly more influence over your information, decision making and purchases.

Corporations do not care about you. They only care about your money.

This is the government legislating to give users control over their devices, to protect the user's data and deter theft.
Rating: 2 Votes
19 weeks ago

I don't know if I want a 'Kill Switch' available in the phones. I am not normally paranoid, but it seems like something governments would use against their people. I imagine that the Arab Spring a few years ago, which relied heavily on phones to tweet, Facebook, and text each other, might have had different results if their oppressive leaders could convince the phone companies to "kill" the phones of suspected protestors.


I was originally a proponent of a law mandating these kill switches, but the more I thought about it, the more I got concerned about exactly this type of intrusion. Note that the iOS Activation Lock solution is met with "cautious optimism." Why? It does everything that a vendor and a consumer can conceivably do to protect their data and deter theft, short of putting an explosive charge in the thing and detonating the phone while it's in the thief's hands, blowing their limbs off.

The only reasoning I have for the continued skepticism is that it just isn't a government-controlled solution.

Also: the feds are already using the possibility of kill switches as justification for wanting warrantless searches of people's smartphones (http://www.wired.com/2014/04/smartphone-kill-switch/). So there is absolutely a downside to this.
Rating: 2 Votes

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