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Why California's kill-switch mandate might save your phone

Philip Michaels | Feb. 10, 2014
If you're reading this story on a smartphone in Bangor, Maine, Key West Florida, Spokane, Washington, or really any point in between, you wouldn't think that a bill making its way through the California state legislature would have much of an impact on your mobile device. But a new proposal for a mandatory kill-switch on mobile devices in California figures to have ramifications felt far beyond the borders of the Golden State should it come to pass.

Partisan gridlock is unlikely to derail the bill. Leno's fellow Democrats hold substantial majorities in both the State Senate and Assembly. California's governor is a Democrat as well.

The biggest opposition is likely to come from the wireless industry. The CTIA, a trade group for the phone industry, has been cool to mandate kill switches, instead promoting a nationwide database of stolen phones as a way to combat theft. (Law enforcement officials think the effectiveness of that database has its limits.) TechNet, a high-tech industry trade group, told the Los Angeles Times that it's guarded about a government-mandated solution.

Some smartphone makers have already taken matters into their own hands: iOS 7 introduced an Activation Lock feature to Apple's mobile devices and Samsung installed a Lojack feature on some of its phones, though you need to pay an annual fee to take advantage of that capability. Should it pass, California's proposed law figures to be a game-changer for smartphone and tablet owners — even those in other states.


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