California smartphone 'kill switch' bill advances

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — On a second attempt, California lawmakers advanced a bill Thursday that would require electronics manufacturers to install a shut-off function in all smartphones as a way to deter what one senator called a crime wave of thefts.

The legislation by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, requires companies to produce smartphones with technology that makes them inoperable if the owner loses possession.

It fell two votes short of passing the 40-member Senate two weeks ago, but Leno said amendments since then removed opposition from Apple and Microsoft. It now applies to smartphones manufactured and sold after July 2015 and no longer includes tablets.

However, the wireless industry opposes the measure as unnecessary.

"We have a crime wave sweeping our state," Leno said in urging support for his bill. He said two of three robberies in San Francisco now include the theft of a smartphone, and one of four robberies in Oakland.

"These crimes are up at double-digit rates," he said. "We're trying to keep our constituents safe on the streets."

It advanced as a San Francisco supervisor proposed legislation this week that would require smartphones and other mobile devices sold in the city to be equipped with a "kill switch" to render them inoperable if they're lost or stolen.

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, noted recent reports that some smartphone owners are endangering themselves by using phones' tracking software to confront thieves to retrieve their phones.

SB962 passed the Senate on a 26-8 vote on its second attempt and now goes to the Assembly. Leno said more amendments will be considered there, including several offered by Apple this week.