Bye bye, iCrime! California moves to make iOS-style ‘kill switches’ required by law

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Introduced in iOS 7, Activation Lock is a feature that prevents users who recover a lost or stolen iPhone from activating the device without signing in with the Apple ID used to erase the device remotely.

By all accounts, Activation Lock has made a difference in stopping smartphone theft, especially in New York. But in California, law may very well mandate smartphone features like Activation Lock shortly.

Earlier this year, California’s senator Mark Leno introduced a bill that would require cellphone makers to install ‘kill switches’ in their handsets which would render them inoperable when stolen. Apple supported the measure, along with other carriers and tech firms like Apple, Google, and Samsung.

Today, Leno’s bill won California state senate approval, which means that it’s just a signature from Governor Jerry Brown away from being passed as law.

“With robberies of smartphones reaching an all-time high, California cannot continue to stand by when a solution to the problem is readily available,” Senator Leno said in a statement. “Today we are officially stepping in and requiring the cellphone industry to take the necessary steps to curb violent smartphone thefts and protect the safety of the very consumers they rely upon to support their businesses.”

Smartphone makers will have until July 1, 2015, to incorporate their own “kill switch” technology. With Activation Lock already installed on millions of devices, Apple obviously doesn’t have much to worry about.

If this law comes to California, it’s bound to come to other states, and maybe become a federal mandate soon enough. That’s a good thing: iPhone crime is easy enough to deter if a mere software switch flipped from anywhere can make a stolen iPhone worthless.

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About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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