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California senator to propose wireless ‘kill switch’ bill

California Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) wants to help Californians by forcing wireless carriers and phone manufacturers into including a remote ‘kill switch’ with their smartphones.

A California senator wants to make it a law for smartphones sold in the state to provide a remote ‘kill switch’ in case a smartphone is compromised.

In a recent announcement, Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon detailed their plans for new legislation to combat smartphone theft.  Requiring a kill switch would allow customers – and wireless carriers – to remotely brick a phone if it’s lost or stolen.

In 2012, stolen smartphones cost U.S. consumers in excess of $30 billion, with related crime increasing nationwide.

Despite an uptick in smartphone theft, often by armed robbery, wireless carriers don’t like the idea of including a remote kill switch on the devices they sell.  Google and Microsoft haven’t released any type of anti-theft technology for their phones lately, while carriers are worried about slashing into their phone insurance sales.

“One of the top catalysts for street crime in many California cities is smartphone theft, and these crimes are becoming increasingly violent,” said Sen. Leno, in a press statement.  “We cannot continue to ignore our ability to utilize existing technology to stop cell phone thieves in their tracks.  It is time to act on this serious public safety threat to our communities.”

Current remote locking functionality comes in form of expensive ‘bring your own device’ software commonly used in the enterprise.  This is a complicated issue that will carry into 2014, as carriers and governments in other parts of the world are trying to deal with an increase in smartphones – and what happens if these devices are stolen.

Source: Sen. Mark Leno

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