Despite industry opposition and a failed first attempt, California’s governor signed into law a bill that requires smartphone manufacturers to install and enable kill switch functionality on all smartphones sold after July 1, 2015. Though California isn’t the first state to enact a killswitch law – Minnesota enacted a similar law back in May – it’s the first to require that the kill switch be enabled by factory default. Opponents of the law were quick to point out that any state’s effort to enforce this capability are redundant, as many smartphones already have this functionality, and it is quickly becoming a standard for all manufacturers. Both Apple and Samsung feature some variation of activation locking that prevents stolen phones from being used, but as the authors of the California bill were quick to point out, having it available and actually enabling it are two different things.
What this means for you:
Even if you aren’t a California or Minnesota resident, it’s possible you already own a phone that has some form of kill switch capability, especially if the device was made in the past two years. Even if you are one of the careful 9 out of 10 people who hasn’t had a smartphone stolen, you should enable any kill switch and anti-theft capabilities your phone has to offer, including putting a passcode of some form on your phone. Misplacing a phone could be just as devestating without it, and even though it wasn’t technically “stolen”, no kill switch means that a less scrupulous individual just got a brand new smartphone for free. You should also enable recovery and theft prevention features on any tablet you own – both iOS and Android offer location and security as standard features of the OS – and keep in mind that California’s law only applies to smartphones, not tablets.
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