The textalyzer is a portable piece of electronic equipment that is designed to look at a cell phone log to see if texting was being performed preceding or during an accident. It was developed by the Israeli company Cellebrite, the same firm that is believed to have assisted the FBI with the cell phone encryption problem with Apple.
The first legislation has been proposed in New York and is designed to have drivers have their cell phones tested at an accident scene. (New York was also the first state to implement drunk driving laws and field sobriety tests in 1910). But, it seems that we are running into that pesky Fourth Amendment right to privacy:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”.
So, to get around this hurdle the proposed law excludes looking at any data on the phone other than the log activity and time related to the accident. However, Cellebrite already has phone scraping technology so it is still a question as to how the data will be ignored. While trusting people would expect probable cause to look at data and a warrant obtained, I remain skeptical.
And then we get to the really sticky part of the proposed legislation which is implied consent. It is defined as a driver will allow the police access to the phone at the scene of an accident and, if denying that request, will lose the use of their driver’s license. This is the same way that the DUI laws work. So, even if you are parked and are hit by another vehicle, the authorities will have the option of checking your phone.
I have posted entries before about the erosion of privacy and have concluded that we surrender our rights as soon as we get on the internet. (Example: Not reading the long and laborious “I Agree” documentation when adding software. And the textalyzer is just another step in the trend to have more intrusion. Will this technology stop texting while driving? Sure it will! Just as the laws have stopped drunk driving…