California is set to become the first state in the nation to outlaw the use of hand-held phones in public, after a bill to do so was approved by the state legislature last week.
The new law will come into effect on February 18, 2017, and it will require any person who wants to use their hands-free phone in public to register their phone and sign an agreement stating that the device will not be used for the purpose of filming, recording, or making a recording.
“The law prohibits any person from using a device in public without permission from a government agency,” a statement from California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office read.
“It does not prohibit using a hands-only device while walking down the street, driving on the highway, or even riding a bicycle.”
The law will apply to all public spaces, including school zones, public parks, beaches, sidewalks, playgrounds, public transit systems, and airports.
According to the statement, “the use of a hands free device is not an authorized activity” that may result in a fine of up to $1,000.
The statement went on to explain that “the law is necessary to ensure that our law enforcement officers have the tools they need to protect the public.”
A number of news organizations have reported on the legislation and have been critical of it.
“Hand-held mobile phones are not just harmless fun, they are a serious security risk for people in public places,” wrote the New York Times.
“When someone takes their hands off their phone, their voice can be heard, making them the targets of people who may have mistaken them for criminals.”
Other news organizations also pointed out that the law has some serious flaws.
“According to the California Penal Code, ‘the use’ of a device to make a recording of or recording a conversation does not ‘require permission from the person who made the recording,’ and the device can be ‘used in any public place’ if the person doing the recording agrees,” reported CNN.
“Moreover, a recording may be used in public even if the recording is made without permission.”
A spokesperson for the California State Assembly, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), also pointed to a number of issues with the law.
“This is the wrong approach to security, and I’m disappointed that the California Assembly is pursuing this reckless and dangerous approach,” he said.
“We should be focused on creating a safe and responsible society and the law that allows the police and other government agencies to use force in our communities to protect public safety and promote the public’s health.”
Schiff is calling for the legislation to be withdrawn.
“For too long, Californians have been using smartphones and tablets as a tool to communicate and record their thoughts, emotions, and the stories of everyday people,” he added.
“These devices also allow people to be captured and monitored and that is dangerous and irresponsible.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.