California Senate Passes Smartphone Kill Switch Bill

California’s Senate passed a bill requiring smartphone makers such as Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) to include technology that would let customers remotely wipe data from their devices and render them inoperable when stolen.

The same legislation was rejected a month ago amid pressure from the industry. The author of the legislation, San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno, amended the bill to exclude tablets from the mandate and to extend the date it becomes effective by six months to allow companies to sell off existing supplies.

Mobile-phone companies have been under pressure from police around the U.S. to add more anti-theft features to devices as robberies rise nationwide. A similar bill passed out of the Minnesota Senate May 2. San Francisco is considering its own law and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pushing for federal legislation.

Under the new bill, smartphones sold in California must include the technology starting in July 2015. While the bill was passing 25-8, the margin in the Democratic-controlled Senate can change as absent members continue to enter votes. The state Assembly, also controlled by Democrats, will consider the legislation next.

South Korea’s Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, along with Apple, AT&T Inc. (T), and 10 other smartphone makers and wireless companies agreed last month to offer such technology beginning next year. Leno said the voluntary measure was “inadequate.”

Samsung Mobile spokeswoman Kimberly Kulesh didn’t immediately respond to a message for comment. Apple, based in Cupertino, California, the second-largest maker of smartphones, had opposed the original legislation. The company withdrew its objection after the bill was amended, Leno said.

While Apple won’t discuss its position on the legislation, the company already offers security options for its devices, said spokesman Colin Johnson. Apple phones and tablets can be protected with applications that allow the owner to track the location of the device and remotely set a passcode or erase all personal data if stolen, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael B. Marois in Sacramento at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at Jeffrey Taylor, Alan Goldstein

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