California law could end grand theft mobile with kill-switches in all smartphones

Lawmakers in California are so intent on curbing record levels of smartphone theft, they're ready to fine phone makers if anti-theft measures aren't installed on their devices. The New York Times reports that the order will come from State Senator Mark Leno, who is set to introduce a new bill requiring all smartphones and tablets sold in the state to include a "kill switch" solution that would lock down a device if it was stolen. Ignore the ruling and there's a $2,500 fine for each device sold.

San Francisco and New York prosecutors George Gascón and Eric Schneiderman set the ball rolling when they met with representatives from Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft last year. Apple has since won praise for including its Activation Lock feature by default in iOS 7, requiring device owners to set a passcode that stops thieves reactivating a stolen phone (but could be unlocked with a username and password). While it would only officially cover California, the new law could force phone makers into a full US rollout, likely upsetting the carriers. The CTIA, which represents the likes of AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, believes its stolen-phone database is a better solution and will fight the ruling. If it is signed into law, phone makers will have until January 1st, 2015 to implement a solution or they will not pass Go and will be forced to pay out a lot more than $200.