Thursday, March 20, 2014

Oakland Council Pushes for Smartphone Kill Switches

By Elly Schmidt-Hopper
Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 12:52 PM

This week, the Oakland City Council unanimously approved a resolution in support of California Senate Bill 962 (SB 962). If passed, the law will require that all smartphones and tablets sold in the state include a kill switch. The resolution was introduced by Councilmember Dan Kalb, who began advocating for a state law requiring kill switches last year.

“The goal of SB 962 is to eliminate the lure that smartphones and other devices present to thieves by eliminating their resale value, which will help to reduce the epidemic of armed robberies,” Kalb said in a press release. Kalb was robbed of his smartphone at gunpoint in 2012 in North Oakland.

Dan Kalb
  • Dan Kalb
Public officials and lawmakers in Oakland are particularly eager to pass a kill switch law and reduce the number of robberies in the city. In 2012, Oakland had the highest robbery rate in the nation and earned the unfortunate moniker, “Robbery Capital of America.” The Oakland Police Department estimates that nearly 75 percent of all street robberies in Oakland include a mobile electronic device.

A kill switch is technology built into either the hardware or software of a smartphone or tablet that can remotely render the device inoperable. SB 962, if passed in its current form, will require that the kill switches withstand a hard reset or a software downgrade, and come default in every smartphone or tablet starting on January 1, 2015.

Kalb feels that SB 962 is necessary because smartphone carriers and manufacturers have been dodging a universal kill switch for years.

“Since most cellphone carriers oppose a mandatory kill switch and make profit from phone insurance premiums and replaced phones, a legislative solution is essential for forcing the industry to protect consumers from crime,” said Kalb.

The California Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications is currently considering SB 962.

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