Although Apple, Google and a number of phone makers have agreed to implement a kill switch in smartphones and tablets, California is pushing to make this feature a required component. The bill passed in the Senate with a 27 to 8 vote on Monday and is now heading to Governor Jerry Brown's office for his seal of approval.
Earlier this year, Consumer Reports said that 3.1 million smartphones were stolen in 2013, which is close to double the number of devices stolen in the year before. The organization also said that around 1.4 million smartphones were misplaced and not recovered, slightly more than the number of lost phones in the year before.
"Our survey revealed that the number of lost and stolen smart phones is on the rise, and too many smart-phone users are needlessly imperiling their personal data by not taking basic security measures," said Glenn Derene, Electronics Editor, Consumer Reports.
A good way for consumers to protect their information is to use a screen lock with a 4-digit pin number. If you're on Android, you can set up Android Device Manager to locate the device via GPS (if that's enabled), send a "ring" command, lock the device or erase all data. On iOS devices, sign in to icloud.com/#find with your Apple ID and click "All Devices." Can't find the device? Choose Lost Mode or Erase iPhone.
According to Consumer Reports, 34 percent of those surveyed are not taking measures to secure their phones. Only 22 percent have installed software that can locate the device, and only 14 percent installed an antivirus app. Only 7 percent used security features other than the screen lock. With all that said, it's no wonder the government is trying to establish a kill-switch law.
If the Governor does approve the current bill, special software for remotely disabling a lost device will be a required feature on all smartphones manufactured after July 2015 and sold in the state. The CTIA, which has represented the wireless communications industry since 1985, doesn't support the bill and is urging the Governor not to sign it.
Jamie Hastings, vice president of external and state affairs for the CTIA, told CNET that lower consumer costs and "phenomenal" innovation in the wireless industry is made possible by uniformity across the entire industry. "State by state technology mandates, such as this one, stifle those benefits and are detrimental to wireless consumers," she added.
With a kill-switch already in place on Android and iOS devices, and backed by device makers like Samsung, do consumers really need a law to enforce the issue? California seems to think so.