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Kill Switch Law Lowers Smartphone Theft

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Last year, Reuters reported that nearly half of all crimes committed in San Francisco, Oakland and other major California cities involved smartphone theft. So, in response, California legislature passed a law that required that all smartphones sold in the Golden State have a ‘kill switch’ to render them useless if stolen. The law, which followed a similar law passed in Minnesota, was designed to curb the incredibly high rate of phone thefts in California. And it looks like it’s working.

Currently, all devices running iOS 8 or Android Lollipop 5.1 have a kill switch automatically implemented on the device. With this feature, if the device is stolen, the user can remotely wipe all of the information on the device and lock the thief out, essentially turning the phone into a paperweight. With all of the recent news about how wiping your phone doesn’t always delete everything, I personally wonder if this is as effective a many say. However, even partially wiping and locking is better than nothing, right?

While the California law officially went into effect this July, kill switches have actually been common in smartphones for about a year or so, although they were opt-in so use was not as widespread. Regardless, according to a new Consumer Reports study, smartphone thefts have been steadily dropping. In fact, smartphone thefts decreased around 32% between 2013 and 2014; down from 3.1 million to 2.1 million.

Personally, I think these measures have been a long time in coming, and as older smartphones are slowly phased out in favor of devices that have kill switches, I expect that smartphone theft will continue to drop. I doubt it’ll ever be completely zero, but the insane rates will hopefully decrease.