California Senate Reverses, Backs Cell Phone 'Kill Switch'

California Senate Reverses, Backs Cell Phone 'Kill Switch'

The California Senate suddenly reversed itself on Thursday in voting for a bill that would force cell phones to have remote “kill switches” that would let the owners disable them if they are stolen. Late last month, the bill was defeated by a narrow two-vote margin.

The bill, SB 962, pitted two lobbies with substantial resources against each other. Law enforcement groups such as the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office arguing passage of the bill would deter criminals, while technology companies asserted that the bill was superfluous because the owners of the cell phones would have the option to disable their phones themselves.

SB 962’s author, Sen. Mark Leno, (D-San Francisco), revealed that because of amendments to the bill he had authored, Apple had decided to withdraw its opposition. One change Leno made was to force only cell phones, and not tablets, to have “kill switches”–and even that change would not take effect until July 2015.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office said that over 50% of all robberies in the city dealt with mobile devices, and 75% in Oakland, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Republicans had opposed the bill because of its potential costs to business. Having passed the State Senate, the bill will be considered by the State Assembly.