Mobile kill switch bill introduced in California

Mobile ‘kill switch’ bill introduced in California

10 FEB 2014

A bill requiring mobile devices to include a kill switch to remotely disable smartphones and tablets if they are stolen has been introduced in the California legislature.

The bill covers the sale of an “advanced mobile communications devices” defined as an electronic device regularly held in the hand that enables voice communications via mobile networks, VoIP and internet protocol.

Re/Code pointed out that the bill has been written so broadly that the kill switch could apply to a wide range of devices, including Wi-Fi only tablets. Such devices without mobile connectivity are not always activated.

There have been growing calls for mobile device makers to provide a means to prevent stolen phones and tablets from being reactivated.

This is being led by the Secure Our Smartphones (SOS) initiative, which aims to introduce anti-theft technology on mobile devices. SOS is co-chaired by New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman, San Francisco district attorney George Gascon and London mayor Boris Johnson.

In a letter sent to US operators in December, Schneiderman accused them of making it difficult for Samsung to preload a kill switch onto certain smartphones.

Samsung responded by saying it was in discussions with operators in the US about a kill switch on its Galaxy Note 3 (pictured), with some operators saying they will support a free and secure kill switch applications.

CTIA, the US mobile industry trade group, hasn’t yet backed a kill switch, instead supporting the creation of a database of stolen phones which operators can use to log which devices should not be reactivated.

Apple’s iOS 7 includes an activation lock that allows iPhone and iPad owners to prevent their device being reactivated without their permission. This also works on Apple devices that don’t connect to mobile networks.

Implementing this kind of function is trickier on devices that don’t connect to a central server or the internet, however.

Although the bill has been introduced in California, it is by no means guaranteed to become law.


Tim Ferguson

Tim joined Mobile World Live in August 2011 and works across all channels, with a particular focus on apps. He came to the GSMA with five years of tech journalism experience, having started his career as a reporter... More

Read more