Mandatory cellphone kill switches become law in California 

Gov. Jerry Brown today signed legislation that requires all smartphones sold in California after July 1, 2015 to come equipped with technology that will render the devices inoperable if stolen.

The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act, also known as Senate Bill 962, was authored by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and received support from smartphone manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung and Microsoft.

"California has just put smartphone thieves on notice,” Leno said after the governor signed his bill. "Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb this crime of convenience, which is fueling street crime and violence within our communities."

Leno suggested that the law will affect "most likely every other state in the union," as smartphone manufacturers may be unwilling to create two sets of software -- one for distribution in California and one for the rest of the nation.

District Attorney George Gascón, who sponsored the bill, said, "Seldom can a public safety crisis be addressed by a technological solution, but today wireless consumers everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. Soon, stealing a smartphone won’t be worth the trouble, and these violent street crimes will be a thing of the past."

Under the bill, smartphone owners will be prompted to use the kill switch as the default setting when they set up a new phone.

"My family is very pleased that the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act has become law in California," said Paul Boken, who became an advocate for the technology after his daughter Megan was killed during a 2012 smartphone robbery.

However, Jamie Hastings of CTIA-The Wireless Association, a nonprofit that represents the cellphone industry, expressed disappointment at the bill's passage.

"Today's action was unnecessary given the breadth of action the industry has taken," Hastings said. "Uniformity in the wireless industry created tremendous benefits for wireless consumers, including lower costs and phenomenal innovation. State by state technology mandates, such as this one, stifle those benefits and are detrimental to wireless consumers."

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