California bill SB-962, the “Smartphones” bill, was signed into law by the state’s governor Jerry Brown on Monday. The law, which mandates all smartphones sold in the state of California to have a built-in “kill-switch” by July 2015. MacRumors:
The law requires smartphones to include software or hardware that will render the device inoperable to an unauthorized user in the event that the phone is misplaced or stolen. The anti-theft technology, which has to be able to withstand a hard reset or operating system downgrade, must prevent reactivation of the smartphone on a wireless network except by the authorized user. The anti-theft tools must be installed during the phone’s initial setup process, and it must be reversible so an authorized user can unlock the device if it is returned to their possession.
The new law is designed to lower the number of smartphone thefts in the state, a problem plaguing major cities such as San Francisco and New York City. The law was co-sponsored by by San Francisco district attorney George Gascón and state Senator Mark Leno.
Apple already ships its iPhones with Activation Lock, first introduced in iOS 7, which likely fulfills the requirements of the new law. The feature locks a user’s device to their iCloud account, and is turned on when Find My iPhone is activated. The feature then prevents signing out of Find My iPhone, deactivation of iCloud, and wiping of the device without the original owner’s Apple ID.
It is likely that a federal law will be passed requiring features similar to California’s law. The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act was introduced in the Senate back in February. That act would also mandate a “kill-switch” in all smartphones sold in the U.S.
All major smartphone makers – including Apple, Google, Samsung, Nokia – and all major carriers have already agreed to add anti-theft tools to all smartphones manufactured after July 2015.