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California’s Smartphone Kill Switch Law Takes Effect

California’s Smartphone Kill Switch Law Takes Effect

Beginning July 1st of this year, California’s smartphone kill switch law is now officially in effect. This means that all smartphones sold within the Golden State must now come equipped with software that allows mobile users to lock a smartphone when it gets stolen or lost, rendering it essentially useless and more difficult to resell in the black market. 


Examples of kill switch technology for smartphones include Google’s Device Protection and Apple’s Activation Lock. Many phone makers often use this safety feature as a key selling point, especially in promoting their devices to mobile users who want to protect any private data that could become vulnerable when their smartphones are stolen or lost. 


In recent years, federal authorities have seen a noticeable rise in smartphone thefts, most especially in large metropolitan areas in the United States. As for the stolen smartphones, they are usually sold by thieves to cartels and shops that often have these illegally acquired mobile devices shipped to foreign countries, most notably those regions with limited range of smartphone makes and models available. 


To combat this, various phone makers have begun to create a system that requires people to input a passcode before compromised smartphones can be unlocked or restored to factory settings. So far, this approach appears to be effective. A study conducted by Consumer Reports last month states that cases of smartphone thefts are now down to 2.1 million in 2014, an improvement over 2013’s numbers, which had 3.1 million cases of stolen handsets.


There is no doubt that the technology works. But it would be really nice of course if more people actually use these kill switch systems to protect themselves and their devices. This is where California’s law comes in. In August of last year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that requires kill switch software to be installed and activated in all smartphones made after July 1st of this year and sold anywhere in California.


Curiously, the bill was met with opposition from members of the wireless industry. They argued that such kill switches could be exploited by hackers. Supporters of the bill counteracted by questioning the motivations of wireless carriers, pointing out that the real reason behind their protestations is that these carriers have deals with insurance entities and the kill switch law could jeopardize those deals.


California now joins Minnesota as the only two states so far in the United States to require kill switch software in all smartphones sold in their respective regions.