California governor signs bill requiring cellphone 'kill switches'

State becomes the first in the nation to enact such legislation


Aug. 26--REPORTING FROM SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown and California lawmakers addressed technology's dark side Monday, with Brown approving a requirement for "kill switches" on smartphones and legislators requesting new protection for victims of revenge porn and identity theft.

A proposed statewide-ban on single-use plastic bags failed to pass the state Assembly, a serious blow to one of the most hotly contested issues before the Legislature as its two-year session draws to a close. The bill, SB 270 by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), could be brought up for another vote before lawmakers adjourn Sunday.

Brown signed into law a first-in-the-nation mandate that smartphones made in California eventually be equipped with technology allowing their owners to remotely render them useless if stolen.

Law enforcement leaders, including Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon, pushed for the legislation in response to a spate of violent cellphone thefts, hoping it would serve as a deterrent.

"California has just put smart phone thieves on notice," said Sen. Mark Leno, the San Francisco Democrat who introduced the bill. "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."

The measure, SB 962, applies to phones made after July 1, 2015, to allow the industry time to adjust. The legislation was opposed by some industry groups who argued that phone manufacturers already were taking steps to improve security.

"State by state technology mandates, such as this one, stifle those benefits and are detrimental to wireless consumers," said Jamie Hastings, an executive for the cellphone industry organization known as CTIA.

Lawmakers sent Brown legislation to close a loophole in the state law prohibiting revenge porn -- the distribution of sexually explicit photographs of someone without their consent. The new proposal, SB 1255 by Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), would expand the law to include "selfies" -- photographs people take of themselves.

"As technology evolves, it is important that government act to protect our citizens from new types of crime, such as revenge porn," Cannella said.

A second measure would allow victims of revenge porn to seek a restraining order in civil court to have the offending pictures removed from the Internet. A victim could also seek damages.

"Sen. Cannella has done a wonderful job on the criminal side.... I said, let's do something with the civil side and just get the pictures down," said Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), author of the second bill, AB 2643.

In response to major consumer data breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus and other retail chains, lawmakers also passed a bill to require businesses that are the source of the breach to provide identity theft protection to all potential victims.

The coverage required under the legislation would be free to customers for a minimum of 12 months if the leaked financial information included Social Security and driver's license numbers. The bill, AB 1710, was sponsored by Assemblymen Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) and Wieckowski.

Lawmakers also sent to the governor bills that would:

--Direct the state Department of Veterans Affairs to build a new veterans cemetery in Orange County, on the former U.S. Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. The bill, AB 1453, was sponsored by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton).

--Crack down on hit-and-run accidents in California. The bill, AB 2337 sponsored by Assemblyman Eric Linder (R-Corona), would extend from one year to two the time that a driver's license would be revoked after a motorist causes a hit-and-run accident that results in serious injury or death.

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