Capitol Alert: California Senate switches, supports cell phone 'kill switch'

05/08/2014 10:32 AM

05/09/2014 3:26 AM

The California Senate reversed course Thursday, approving a bill it had rejected last week that requires cell phones be equipped with remote "kill switches" allowing owners to disable them when stolen.

Senate Bill 962 pit two influential lobbies against each other -- law enforcement groups who said the measure would reduce crime against technology companies that argued the bill wasn't necessary because they are voluntarily giving customers the option to activate remote disabling.

But some industry objection softened over the last week as the two sides continued negotiations, said the bill's author, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. He said he had made a number of amendments that led Apple to remove its opposition. Among them: the bill now only applies to cell phones, not tablets, and its implementation date was pushed out six months to July 2015.

"We're trying to keep our constituents safe on their streets and in their neighborhoods that's why we're here today," Leno said.

SB 962 is sponsored by the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, which reports that more than half of all robberies in the city involve mobile device theft, as do 75 percent of robberies in Oakland.

Republicans in the Senate voiced reservations about the bill, saying they still have concerns about the penalties it includes and potential liability issues for manufacturers that sell phones that do not meet the new requirements.

The bill now heads to the Assembly.


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