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‘Kill switch’: Smartphone disabling feature to be required

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‘Kill switch’: Smartphone disabling feature to be required
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

ST. PAUL — Minnesota smartphones next year must include a way to disable them when stolen.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill into law Wednesday requiring mobile telephone companies to include “kill switches” on smartphones and connected tablets sold beginning July 1, 2015. This new process will allow owners to disable lost and stolen devices as a way to discourage thefts.


“When you take away the worth, you take away the incentives” of thieves, Rep. Joe Atkins, D-Inver Grove Heights, said.

With Dayton’s signature, Minnesota became the first state to have such a law.

Atkins said he first learned of the issue a year ago when he met his two sons at a University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus-area restaurant. He put his mobile phone on the table.

“What are you doing?” one son asked. “You are going to get us killed.”

With that introduction to the problem, Atkins became the most outspoken proponent of the measure.

One out of three thefts nationally now involve a smartphone, and the university’s police chief said the devices are the subject of 62 percent of campus crime. Guns often are involved, Chief Greg Hestness said.

Dayton said that the problem “afflicts people of all ages, of all walks of life.”

Sen. Katie Sieben, D-Cottage Grove, said mobile phone thefts are frustrating and terrifying for victims.

“It will help reduce cell phone theft in Minnesota,” she declared about the new law.

The bill also forbids businesses from paying cash for mobile phones after police told lawmakers that many thieves who stole phones immediately sold them.

Besides the value of the phone itself, personal data can be used by thieves.

Other states are considering legislation similar to what Dayton signed. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has introduced a similar bill in Congress.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.