The California Senate has passed a new law that would require smartphone makers, like Apple and HTC, to install kill switch features on all smartphone sold in the state by 2015. A kill switch would be a way for an iPhone owner to make an iPhone inoperable and delete its data should an iPhone be stolen.
"The bill would require that the technological solution be able to withstand a hard reset, as defined, and when enabled, prevent reactivation of the device on a wireless network except by the rightful owner or his or her authorized designee," the legislation reads. "... The bill would make a violation of the bill’s requirements subject to a civil penalty of not less than $500, nor more than $2,500, for each violation."
According to legislative documents, the cost of stolen smartphones is immense. The thefts resulted in an estimated $30 billion business of lost and stolen mobile devices. "Additionally, industry publications indicate that the four largest providers of commercial mobile radio services made an estimated seven billion eight hundred million dollars ($7,800,000,000) from theft and loss insurance products in 2013," the bill says.
iPhones owner are a major targets by criminal especially in larger cities like New York. According to the New York City Police Department, overall crime throughout the city in 2013 would have declined if not for the rise in iPhone thefts. In order to help stop iPhone thefts the city is hoping to track the second-hand sales of the smartphones.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Operations, John Bilich, said thefts of electronics account for more than 40 percent of robberies in New York. IN 2012, 16,000 Apple devices were stolen and in 2013 nearly 45 percent of all robberies in the city were of smartphones, Bilich said.
Apple has already joined the cause to help curtail the rise of smartphone thefts with iOS 7 and the release of the iPhone 5s. With Touch ID, iPhone users now must place a finger on the home button and have it recognized by the device before it unlocks.
Just last month Apple and several other smartphone makers joined the "smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment," according to a CTIA news release. The agreement, which smartphone makers signed on to, is similar to the bill passed by the California Senate this week. It would, at no cost to consumers, require an anti-theft tool that is preloaded or able to download for free for all smartphones.
“We appreciate the commitment made by these companies to protect wireless users in the event their smartphones are lost or stolen. This flexibility provides consumers with access to the best features and apps that fit their unique needs while protecting their smartphones and the valuable information they contain. At the same time, it’s important different technologies are available so that a ‘trap door’ isn’t created that could be exploited by hackers and criminals,” said Steve Largent, President and CEO, CTIA, in a statement. “By working together with policymakers, law enforcement and consumers, we will deter theft and protect users’ personal information on smartphones.”