Minnesota’s governor Mark Dayton just signed the first law requiring smartphones to be sold with pre-installed antitheft software, now commonly referred to as a kill switch. The new Minnesota law will be effective on July 1, 2015.
The legislation, however, does not clearly define a ‘kill switch’ in that it doesn’t mandate stolen phones must be rendered inoperable once stolen. Moreover, the bill itself also allows for phone manufacturers to sell phones without antitheft software so long as consumers can download it for free:
Any new smart phone manufactured on or after July 1, 2015, sold or purchased in Minnesota must be equipped with preloaded antitheft functionality or be capable of downloading that functionality. The functionality must be available to purchasers at no cost.
Minnesota’s new law does seem to take a more severe approach to re-sellers of phones as a theft-deterrent. The new law requires major non-digital phone retailers to maintain purchasing records of used phones for up to three years:
The record must include the following and may be kept in electronic form:
(1) an accurate account or description of the wireless communications device purchased or acquired;
(2) the date, time, and place or the online platform the wireless communications device was purchased or acquired;
(3) the name and address of the person selling or delivering the wireless communications device;
(4) the number of the check or electronic transfer used to purchase the wireless communications device;
(5) the number of the seller’s driver’s license, Minnesota identification card number, or other identification number from an identification document issued by any state, federal, or foreign government if the document includes the person’s photograph, full name, birth date, and signature; and
(6) a statement signed by the seller, under penalty of perjury as provided in section 609.48, attesting that the wireless communications device is not stolen and is free of any liens or encumbrances and the seller has the right to sell it.
Prior to the passage of Minnesota’s Chapter 241, SF1740, California had failed to pass a law that would require similar functionality. Most major phone makers and wireless carriers have already signed a voluntary agreement stating that they will provide antitheft tools for mobile users as early as 2015, but as we all know, voluntary agreements are not practical as most businesses already operate on a voluntary basis, and most phones already come ill-equipped with anti-theft protections.
Professional estimates claim that anti-theft tools like a real ‘kill switch’ would save consumers up to $2.6 billion annually – mostly through insurance savings. Last year, American consumers lost $30 billion from stolen devices, which accounts for nearly 1 in 3 robberies.