California became the first state to mandate that smartphones have kill switches which allow consumers to remotely lock the phone and wipe out the data if the devices are lost or stolen.
Governor Jerry Brown signed the new law yesterday. All smartphones sold within the state must have a built-in (not an opt-in) kill switch from the factory.
Kill switches are designed to make a phone virtually unusable if it is lost or stolen. The phone will no longer make calls, connect to the Internet or do much of anything else a smartphone should do. The phone can be reactivated with the proper password or personal identification number.
Minnesota signed a similar bill into law in May, but it does not require kill switches to be built-in by default. They can be opt-in, which means that users have to decide whether they want to sign up for this feature.
According to Consumer Reports, over three million devices were stolen in the United States last year, almost twice as many as the previous year.
“California has just put smartphone thieves on notice,” said State Senator Mark Leno, author of the bill.
“Seldom can a public safety crisis be addressed by a technological solution, but today wireless consumers everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief,” remarked San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.
The new law goes into effect for all phones sold after July 1, 2015.