You're walking down a city block, listening to some sweet tunes with those new over-the-ear headphones you just bought, and you don't hear the crook sneaking up behind you. As you pull your phone out of your pocket to check a text, the crook quickly grabs the expensive melding of glass and metal and runs off into the sunset with it, leaving you standing there dumbfounded at what just happened. What's your next plan of action at this point? Call the police? Change your passwords? All of these are great ideas when having something as valuable and personal as your smartphone stolen from you, but what you really should be concerned with is not only tracking the equipment to find the thieves who nabbed it, but erasing all that personal information on the phone so further theft cannot occur. While this sort of thing is possible and has been for years now, it's not something that's enabled on most smartphones by default, and the California legislature, among other states' legislators as well, have been trying to change that.
Unfortunately for consumers not in the know about these types of tools for their phones, California legislators failed to pass the bill by a nearly 50% margin. Simply put this bill would have forces smartphone retailers and manufacturers to enable software like the Android Device Manager by default on the device, allowing you to easily track the device and wipe any data if necessary. For those out there that have an Android device and haven't enabled this, do it ASAP! Grab the app from the Google Play Store and then head on over to the Android Device Manager website to track your phone and set important options. From here you can set up the ability to remotely ring, lock or even erase your device and leave a nasty message for the criminals who might have your phone too. This is a free service provided by Google and Apple, and there are many other apps on the Apple Appstore or Google Play Store that have the same set of features too.
The legislation was struck down primarily due to what was cited as "extraneous costs" to phone manufacturers in providing these tools. Unfortunately like most things technology related the legislators at hand seem to be completely ignorant of real-world market conditions and the fact that these tools already exists and are included in phones from the get-go. Then there's also the journalistic malpractice that goes on, with many articles about this same subject only ever talking about Apple's Find My iPhone app or Samsung's new reactivation app in the Galaxy S5, completely ignoring the fact that Google's tools have been around for quite some time now and are hardware agnostic; the only requirement is that you need to have a phone running Android. Looking at the download stats for the app is even more depressing: only 1,000,000 to 5,000,000 copies of the app have ever been downloaded, compared with over 1,000,000,000 for something like Google Play Services which is pushed from Google via the Play Store. When it all comes down to it Google needs to be the one to push the app to all Android phones, as users are generally not exploratory enough to find it on their own. Many of the same types of kill switch bills are being discussed across the country, and it's likely only a matter of time before some states actually adopt the measure and it spreads across the country. It's just a shame we need such legislation in the first place for what seems to be a common sense matter.