California Kill Switch Law: State Requires All Smartphones Have A Deactivation Feature To Prevent Theft

By Barry Eitel , Updated Aug 26, 2014 02:49 PM EDT

California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law yesterday that requires smartphones sold in the state to include "kill switches"'--anti-theft technology that would make a phone unusable after it was stolen.

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Because California is such a large population (and where most of the major tech companies are located), the law means that most smartphone manufacturers will probably now include a kill switch in their devices. Like with automobile manufacturers, it doesn't make much financial sense to sell one type of smartphone in California and a different kind in the 49 other states.

The law only applies to smartphones, not tablets or other devices. It passed the state legislature last week.

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"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 Mark Leno, who introduced the bill, in a statement.

Minnesota was the first state to pass a bill mandating all smartphones include a kill switch back in May. However, the bill signed by Brown requires all smartphones sold in the state to have kill switches already turned on by default, a major difference between the two states' laws.

The San Francisco Police Department claims 2,400 smartphones were stolen in the city last year, which is up 33 percent from year before. Police departments are also reporting rising smartphone thefts in New York City and Washington, D.C.

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