August 25th, 2014
Twitter: @GeorgeGascon
Maxwell Szabo (415) 553-9089
Alex Bastian (415) 553-1931
Stephanie Ong Stillman (415) 553-1167

Mission of the International Secure Our Smartphones Coalition
Becomes Law through First-of-Its-Kind Legislation

SACRAMENTO – Today, California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 962, the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act, into law. The legislation requires all smartphones sold in California to come pre-equipped with theft-deterring technological solutions which can render stolen devices useless. This first-of-its-kind legislation requires manufactures to deploy the solutions in an opt-out manner, ensuring the vast majority of consumers enable the technology. The legislation was sponsored by District Attorney George Gascón and introduced by State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) in response to an epidemic of smartphone theft that spans the state, the country and the globe. The bill had unanimous law enforcement support from groups across the state, and from many groups around the world. Beyond the public safety benefits, implementation of this technology is predicted to save consumers more than $3.4 billion each year, savings that come at the expense of insurance and wireless industry profits. The international Secure Our Smartphones Coalition (S.O.S.) was created in June of 2013 and is co-chaired by District Attorney George Gascón, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and London Mayor Boris Johnson.

“This epidemic has impacted millions across the nation and millions more around the globe, but today we turn the page,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “Seldom can a public safety crisis be addressed by a technological solution, but today wireless consumers everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. Soon, stealing a smartphone won’t be worth the trouble, and these violent street crimes will be a thing of the past. The devices we use every day will no longer make us targets for violent criminals.”

“California has just put smartphone thieves on notice,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “Starting next year, all smartphones sold in California, and most likely every other state in the union, will come equipped with theft deterrent technology when they purchase new phones. Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb this crime of convenience, which is fueling street crime and violence within our communities.”

“With strong evidence supporting the ability of kill switch technology to deter smartphone thefts, there’s no reason why someone should have to lose a son or daughter, parent or friend because a criminal decided to steal their phone,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “That’s why I’m glad to see Governor Brown has signed the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act into law: To finally put an end to this crime wave, kill switches must be deployed universally. As co-chair of the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative, I will continue to urge states nationwide to follow California’s lead and take decisive action to keep consumers safe.”

“My family is very pleased that the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act has become law in California,” said Paul Boken, father of Megan Boken. Megan tragically lost her life during a smartphone robbery in St. Louis in 2012. “We want to thank Senator Leno and DA Gascón for allowing us to be part of this effort. This law, when fully implemented, will ensure no one has to deal with the loss of a loved one like we did when we lost our beloved daughter Megan.”

According to Consumer Reports, the number of victims of smartphone theft in the United States nearly doubled from 1.6 million to 3.1 million between 2012 and 2013, a 94 percent increase in a single year. An astounding 1.6 million phones were reported stolen in Columbia in just 2012, despite the country having a population 1/7th the size of the U.S. In London, 10,000 phones were stolen in just one month of 2013. In fact, the black market trade is so lucrative the Columbian drug cartels are now trafficking stolen smartphones out of the United States. In San Francisco, 67 percent of all robberies involve the theft of a mobile communications device. In Oakland the number is as high as 75 percent of all robberies. Los Angeles has seen a 30 percent increase in smartphone theft since 2011, while San Diego has experienced a 34% increase. 22% of all robberies in Sacramento involve the theft of a smartphone.

SB 962 requires theft-deterrent technology to come standard on all smartphones sold in California. The departure from the status-quo stems from how the technology is currently deployed, wherein consumers are required to opt-in by seeking out and enabling the technology. Recognizing that most consumers accept the default settings on their devices and are often not aware of these protections - which results in few devices having the solutions turned on - SB 962 puts the onus on manufacturers to make this technology opt-out. In order for the technology to effectively deter theft it has to be nearly ubiquitous, as thieves cannot tell which devices have the technology enabled and which do not.

The baseline standard established by SB 962 ensures the majority of wireless consumers will have technology on their devices that allows them to remotely lock and wipe their device. If they retrieve their smartphone, a consumer will be able to restore the device’s functionality and its data. With thieves typically performing a hard reset on a stolen device in order to optimize it for resale, however, an essential aspect to ending the epidemic is the additional requirement that precludes a wireless device from being reactivated without an authorized user’s credentials.

The manufacturers have indicated their intent to apply the standards required in the California law nationwide. As a result, the opt-out nature of the new law will ensure the majority of smartphones are worthless if stolen, thereby removing the incentive to steal smartphones across the U.S. Furthermore, with organized crime rings shipping smartphones stolen in the U.S. overseas, passage of this legislation will have implications for public safety around the globe.

A recently released report from the Secure Our Smartphones Coalition confirms the effectiveness of theft-deterrent technology. The report, which was released in June, found that since the implementation of Apple's Activation Lock (an opt-in theft-deterrent solution), robberies involving iPhones were down 38 percent in San Francisco, 19 percent in New York City, and 24 percent in London. Meanwhile, the thefts of Samsung devices (which do not have a kill switch) surged over this same period by 12 percent in San Francisco, 3 percent in London, and 40 percent in New York City.

SB 962 applies to smartphones manufactured after July 1, 2015 and sold in California.
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