updated 09:48 am EDT, Fri April 25, 2014
Opposition claims tech would create security problems
California's state Senate has narrowly rejected a bill that would've made "kill switch" anti-theft software mandatory on all new smartphones, reports say. A majority actually voted in favor, at a ratio of 19 to 17 with one abstaining, but the pro faction required a minimum of 21 votes. The bill was championed by Sen. Mark Leno, and San Francisco district attorney George Gascon, the latter of whom has campaigned heavily alongside New York attorney general Eric Schneidermann to get smartphone makers to implement better anti-theft measures.
Leno claims that "the game is not yet over," and has promised to revive efforts next week. "This [kill switch] technology exists, and until it is pre-enabled on every new phone purchased, consumers will continue to be the innocent victims of thieves who bank on the fact that these devices can be resold at a profit on the black market."
The CTIA -- which represents the cellular industry -- has been generally opposed to mandatory kill switches, claiming for instance that they might allow hackers to remotely destroy a person's data. Last week it announced a voluntary pledge under which some smartphone makers and carriers -- including Apple, Samsung, Google, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint -- will make a "baseline anti-theft tool" preloaded or available for download. That policy may effectively cover the status quo however, since the majority of US phones are based on iOS or Android, both of which have integrated anti-theft measures but which are off by default.
The defeated bill was actually amended to be limited to smartphones, and only take effect for devices built after July 1st 2015. Originally it would've covered tablets as well, and applied to any phone sold (not just built) after January 1st. This wasn't enough to appease the senators against the bill, who said it would hurt business and drive away companies that are central to the California economy. Sen. Jean Fuller additionally claimed that thieves might still steal phones for their parts, and suggested that "the sale of parts" should be made illegal.