California Passes Revised Smartphone Kill Switch Bill Requiring Anti-Theft Software And Manufacturer Compliance

Mere weeks after voting down legislation that would require smartphone makers to implement anti-theft technology into handsets, the California Senate on Thursday passed a revised version of the bill. As rewritten, technology titans Apple and Microsoft, both with vested interest in such a bill, withdrew opposition to legislation.

Authors of the bill made some minor adjustments, such as giving manufacturers an additional six months to comply with the rules, and to remove tablets from the equation, the San Jose Mercury News reports. As written, so-called "kill switch" technology would be required in all mobile phones manufactured after July 1, 2015, and sold in California.

Prior to the amendments, half a dozen Democrats opposed the bill, including Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose. Apple and Microsoft also made their opposition known. However, not a single Democrat opposed the revised version, which passed on a 26-8 vote.

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"By listening to the concerns of our opponents, we had a big success today," said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. "Given the size of the California market, it wouldn't take much for another state like New York to follow our lead and for manufacturers everywhere to comply with these necessary requirements."

Whether or not to force cell phone makers to implement kill switch technology into their handsets is a controversial subject. Those who support the measure point to the rise in cell phone theft, which are becoming more prevalent and more violent in certain areas. For example, half all robberies in San Francisco and as many as 75 percent in Oakland involve smartphone theft. It's not uncommon to be attacked while walking down the street or riding on a public train.

Not all companies and organizations support kill switch mandates.

"We've rolled out stolen phone databases, consumer education campaigns, anti-theft apps and features and most recently a 'Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment,' which provides a uniform national technology solution," said Jamie Hastings, vice president of external and state affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association. "If technology mandates are imposed on a state-by-state basis, the uniformity is threatened."

There's also the side business of insurance. Replacing lost and stolen phones and tablets has grown into a $300 billion business in the U.S., while the nation's four largest carriers rake in nearly $8 billion per year on insurance policies.