A couple of weeks after it passed state legislature, the so-called "kill switch" bill that requires all smartphones sold in California after July 2015 to come pre-installed with anti-theft technology, has been signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.
The kill switch functionality should allow the owner of a smartphone to lock down the device if it is stolen, rendering it inoperable. In May, the state of Minnesota became the first state to pass a kill switch bill, but California's bill is different in the sense that it makes it mandatory for manufacturers to ship smartphones with the anti-theft feature turned on by default.
A point worth mentioning is that the new law will apply only to smartphones, and not tablets or other devices. Under the new law, retailers who sell smartphones in California without this kill switch will be fined a civil penalty of between $500 and $2,500.
Smartphone theft, which government officials have called an "epidemic", accounts for over 50% of all crimes in many of the California's large cities like San Francisco and Oakland. According to security firm Lookout, one in ten smartphone owners in the US has had a phone stolen.
Proponents of the bill have long argued that the anti-theft feature will make it difficult for criminals to resell stolen phones, which in turn will help reduce phone theft.
“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,” said Senator Leno, who first introduced the bill at a press conference in February.
However, CTIA, a trade organization representing the wireless industry, isn't impressed with the move. “Uniformity in the wireless industry created tremendous benefits for wireless consumers, including lower costs and phenomenal innovation,” said Jamie Hastings, vice president of external and state affairs for CTIA. “State by state technology mandates, such as this one, stifle those benefits and are detrimental to wireless consumers”.