The smartphone is a valuable tool that has become a part of our very being – almost to the point of an obsession – and this fact has not gone unnoticed by thieves who now target the devices at an alarming rate. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that 30 to 40-percent of all robberies nationwide involve cellphone theft, and that figure is more than 50-percent in high-tech San Francisco. In the past year, both New York and California have put pressure on the cellphone manufacturers to put a "kill switch" on their devices so that the smartphone can be rendered useless, if stolen. However, there continues to be strong opposition from the CTIA, a trade group for wireless providers, claiming that a hacker could lock you out of your own device, rendering it useless.
Without any co-operation from the wireless industry, California Senator, Mark Leno, is expected to introduce new legislation requiring that all mobile smartphones and tablets sold in California would require some sort of "kill switch" feature. The bill is sponsored by San Francisco's District Attorney, George Gascon, and would take effect on January 1 2015 and require that all devices sold in the state to include an anti-theft solution – any company selling a device without a "kill switch" would be subject to a fine of $2,500 for each device sold. This bill, if passed, would surely affect the entire country – no manufacturer wants to make two separate devices, one for California and one for the rest of the country. Senator Leno said in a statement:
"With robberies of smartphones reaching an all-time high, California cannot continue to stand by when a solution to the problem is readily available. Today we are officially stepping in and requiring the cellphone industry to take the necessary steps to curb violent smartphone thefts and protect the safety of the very consumers they rely upon to support their businesses."
Michael Altschul, senior vice president and general counsel for CTIA, said that the "kill switch" is not the answer and if the customer recovered their own stolen phone, it would be useless even to the actual user. He said that they are working with law enforcement officials to create a nationwide database, but many in law enforcement say a database will not solve the problem, as many devices end up overseas, out of the databases reach.
New York Senator, Jeffrey D. Klein, took a different approach than Leno, by introducing a bill that would heavily fine or even imprison a business owner that did not require proof of legitimate ownership at the time of purchase. This bill has been sitting in a Senate Committee since October.
Please let us know on our Google+ Page whether or not if you are in favor of a "kill switch" on your mobile device – what solution would you like to see implemented?