California Lawmakers Push for Smartphone "Kill Switch"

The protective feature would make a stolen device inoperable

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    NEWSLETTERS

    About an hour ago, local lawmakers outlined a proposal to help deal with smart-phone thefts in California. NBC Bay Area's Christie Smith reports from San Francisco. (Published Friday, Feb 7, 2014)

    A bill intended to target smartphone theft by requiring a "kill switch" that would shut down the mobile device's essential features has gained the support of several California lawmakers and city officials.

    State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and other lawmakers plan to introduce the bill this legislative session and conduct hearings on the subject in the spring. Supporters said a smartphone "kill switch" would deter smartphone theft, a crime that accounts for 30 to 40 percent of all robberies in the United States, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

    In San Francisco, more than 50 percent of robberies involve a mobile device. In Los Angeles, cell phone thefts increased by 12 percent last year.

    Industry officials have expressed reservations, saying the products already include safety features. John Doherty, a vice president of the industry group TechNet, told the Los Angeles Times government requirements could affect innovation and prices.

    The bill would require protective features on new smartphones sold in California starting next year.

    Leno's legislation does not specify what type of protective features should be installed on new devices, only that companies provide a way to render its essential features inoperable if the device is stolen. Customers would contact their providers to trigger the kill switch if a device is stolen. 

    The bill has backing from family members of an Illinois woman who was killed in 2012 during a cell phone robbery attempt.