Kill switch bill signed into law, will take effect July 2015

Starting next summer, when a new smartphone gets lost or stolen, the owner will be able to render it unusable.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a new law into effect Wednesday that requires a “kill switch” for all new smartphones and cell-connected tablets sold in the state after July 1, 2015. Minnesota is the first state in the country to pass this type of law.

The kill switch function would allow for the device to be remotely disabled and for its memory to be wiped if stolen or lost.

Proponents of the measure say it will help curb violent phone thefts, which have been on the rise nationally and locally.

“I think the ultimate goal is the change of perception that thieves have about stealing from students,” former Minnesota Student Association President Mike Schmit told the Minnesota Daily in April. “Right now we’re easy targets; we’re seen as big-money robberies.”

About one-third of all robberies in the United States involve cell phone theft, according to the Federal Communications Commission. And more than 60 percent of robberies on campus are cell-phone related, the University of Minnesota Police Department testified during legislative hearings earlier this year.

Similar pushes for kill switches are underway in California and New York, as is a federal version of the bill sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. A prominent national trade group for cell phone manufacturers, CTIA-The Wireless Association, announced last month that its member companies would voluntarily begin installing kill switches on phones beginning next July.