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article imageOp-Ed: 'Kill Switch' bill for mobile devices approved, Next step is? Special

By Jonathan Farrell     May 10, 2014 in Technology
San Francisco - This past week, California legislators and San Francisco City Supervisors have been busy looking at a crime prevention measure called the "smart phone 'kill-switch' bill," SB 692. It was approved by the State Senate on May 8.
SF Supervisor London Breed alerted the press two days earlier that she and her staff were petitioning City Attorney, Dennis Herrera "to draft legislation that will ban the sale of any new smart phone or tablet that is not equipped with a safety kill switch." "As with California State Senator Mark Leno’s bill, there should be civil penalties for sellers who violate the law," she stated. "And buyers should have the right to opt-out of the kill switch feature if they choose."
Supervisor Breed made note that "according to the District Attorney’s office, in 2012 more than 50 percent of all robberies in San Francisco involved mobile communications devices." No doubt the vulnerability to identity theft and its consequences is even higher once devices end up in the wrong hands. The Los Angeles Times published an Op-Ed piece by LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck.
The San Francisco Examiner reported that SB 692 failed to pass previously "by just two votes," when brought before the CA State Senate floor. This past Thursday the vote was 25-8. The SF Examiner surmised that one of the reasons for the bill's approval was Apple and Microsoft's withdrawal of opposition. Yet, even so, SB 692 continues to face opposition by other groups as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Supervisor Breed said she was prepared to push forward locally, even if the bill failed again. "If some sellers or phone manufacturers choose not to sell in San Francisco, said Supervisor Breed, so be it!" "Those who do care about public safety will have a competitive advantage in a lucrative local market."
She thanked SF District Attorney George Gascon, State Senator Leno who drafted SB 692, and thanked SF Board of Supervisors president David Chiu for their support and help in the efforts to enact this legislation.
This reporter tried to get more details on just how the legislation be it at State or local level will be enforced. Who will enforce it? What will enforcement require, especially in terms of cost, etc.?
The SF Examiner also reported last month, when the bill failed, that the mobile device industry opposes mandatory kill switches. They argue that the technology could be exploited through government surveillance and hacking. CTIA, a tech industry lobbying group, proposed a "Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment" that would allow tech companies to opt in to kill switch development, rather than being pressured by lawmakers.
While the idea of having a "kill switch" is important to consumers and police, the question remains how will this be enforced? Communications Director for CA State Senator Leno's office Ali Bay would only confirm that the bill passed. Leno represents District 11, which covers San Francisco and parts of the SF Peninsula of San Mateo County. Neither Supervisor Breed's office nor the City Attorney's office could comment on details. There was thought that perhaps enforcement would likely reside in the police code. But who would be fined if caught? Would it be the retailer or the manufacturer?
While State Senator Leno's office was not able to elaborate on how the legislation would be enforced, Carlos Alcala, communications director for State Assembly Member Tom Ammiano said that "the usual process for something like this is that the legislative bill would be referred to the Assembly." "And, it would then be assigned to a subject committee for analysis." Alcala pointed out, "the Smartphone kill-switch bill is State Senator Leno's, we here at Ammiano's office are not involved with it at this time."
Supervisor London Breed's office later referred this reporter's question to the actual bill itself which a portion of it reads:
SB 692 shall "require that any advanced mobile communications device, as defined, that is sold in California on or after January 1, 2015, include a technological solution, which may consist of software, hardware, or both software and hardware, that can render inoperable the essential features of the device, as defined, when the device is not in the possession of the rightful owner."
"The bill would require that the technological solution be able to withstand a hard reset, as defined. The bill would prohibit the sale of an advanced mobile communications device in California without the technological solution being enabled, but would authorize the rightful owner to affirmatively elect to disable the technological solution after sale. The bill would prohibit a provider of commercial mobile radio service, as defined, from including any term or condition in a service contract with an end-use consumer with an address within the state that requires or encourages the consumer or rightful owner to disable the technological solution that renders the consumer’s smartphone or other advanced communications device useless if stolen. The bill would make a violation of the bill’s requirements subject to a civil penalty of not less than $500, nor more than $2,500, for each violation." To view the official SB 692 documents in entirety, visit the California State Legislation government page.
For more details on the legislation and its further developments visit the web site for California State Senator Mark Leno.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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