Consumer advocates have, for years, argued that if phone owners could brick phones remotely, it would deter phone theft. And phone theft is a big problem. In San Francisco, nearly half of all robberies are cell phone related. In New York City, where 40 percent of all robberies are phone related, Mayor Bloomberg blamed a 2012 rise in crime squarely on the theft of Apple products. On Monday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a "kill switch" bill into law.
The bill requires all phones sold after July 1, 2015 to include a function that allows the remote destruction of stolen phones, so that they then can't be resold. Critics say that thieves will figure out how to undo the kill switch, or worse, that hackers could just start bricking phones left and right for the lulz. California's law is the strictest yet and could set the agenda for other states in the future, so it will be interesting to see just how well it ends up working.