Jersey May Mandate Cell Phone “Kill Switch”

Would disable lost or stolen phones and tablets, deterring theft.

Newsworks reports that New Jersey legislators are considering a law that would require a “kill switch” be installed on all cell phones and tablets sold in the state — a feature that would deter theft by disabling lost or stolen devices.

Assemblyman Tom Giblin is proposing that New Jersey require smartphones and tablets have a “kill switch” so they can be disabled when they’re lost or stolen.

“What we’re finding is that more and more crimes are taking place,” he said. “Actually there was a killing recently in Newark over stealing a phone and hopefully this will prevent some of that.”

CNET explains a recent, similar bill passed in California:

In May, Minnesota became the first state to pass a kill switch bill, but that law does not require the feature come turned on as the default setting, when a consumer initially sets up his or her new smartphone — a distinction supporters of the California bill deem very important.

The law aims to address what government officials have called an “epidemic.” One in 10 smartphone owners in the US has had a phone stolen, according to the mobile security firm Lookout. In 2013, more than 3 million Americans were the victims of smartphone theft — nearly twice as many as the year before, according to Consumer Reports. In San Francisco, which Leno represents and over which Gascon presides, thefts of mobile devices made up 65 percent of robberies in 2013. In Oakland, it was 75 percent.