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The idea is to prevent theft

A new California bill could force mobile smartphone and tablet makers to place a "kill switch" on their devices in order to prevent theft. 

According to The New York Times, Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) is expected to introduce the bill Friday, which would require all smartphones and tablets sold in California to have a kill switch. 

Having a feature like this would make the smartphone or tablet unusable if it were stolen. In turn, Leno hopes that this will curb robberies of mobile devices, since they would be more difficult to sell that way.

The bill, which is sponsored by George Gascón --San Francisco’s district attorney -- would make it so phones sold in California on or after Jan. 1, 2015 are required to have kill switches. Those who fail to do so could face fines of up to $2,500 for each device sold.


Sen. Mark Leno. [SOURCE: ABC News]

“With robberies of smartphones reaching an all-time high, California cannot continue to stand by when a solution to the problem is readily available,” said Leno. “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.”

However, CTIA -- the industry trade group that represents mobile carriers like AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile -- said a kill switch isn't the answer because hackers could take control of the feature and disable other phones. Also, it noted that the original owners wouldn't be able to reactivate their phone if they manage to find it. 

While solutions like a nationwide database of phones reported stolen has been put in place, theft rates are still high. In San Francisco alone, 2,400 cellphones were stolen last year, which represents a 23 percent increase from 2012. 

The city has especially tried to tackle iPhone theft, as the Apple smartphone remains a popular target. Last April, San Francisco Police Capt. Joe Garrity described how the cross at Seventh and Market Street in downtown San Francisco is the main place for selling/buying stolen iPhones. The report noted that about 48 percent of San Francisco residents use an iPhone. 

Source: The New York Times





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