Bill would require smart phone 'kill switches' to counter rising thefts

Hoping to pressure smart phone manufacturers to develop more anti-theft technology, San Francisco’s district attorney and a state senator plan to introduce a bill in the legislature that would require smartphones to be equipped with a “kill switch” that would make them useless to a thief.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and San Francisco D.A. George Gascon said Thursday that they believe the bill would be a first in the United States when it’s introduced next month at the start of the next legislative session.

It follows failed attempts to get the smart phone industry to voluntarily install kill switches or other anti-theft devices in response to an increase in thefts, which Leno told the Associated Press are becoming increasingly dangerous for smart phone owners.

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

With or without passage of the bill, Gascon and Schneiderman have set a June deadline for the smart phone industry to come up with ways to prevent thefts.

More than half of all San Francisco robberies involve mobile devices, contributing to a national problem that cost consumers more than $30 billion last year, the AP reported.

Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer, proposed kill switches but told Gascon’s office that its competitors rejected the idea.

Photo by Nhat V. Meyer, Mercury News

Dan Nakaso Dan Nakaso (69 Posts)

Dan Nakaso returned home to San Jose to help tell the story of Silicon Valley and the people who keep the Valley humming.