Everybody knows that texting and driving is a lethal combination. In fact, about 1 in 4 car accidents in the US are caused by drivers that are preoccupied by texting. While texting and driving is almost as hazardous as drinking and driving, there’s been no way for police to consistently determine if cell phone use was the cause of the accident- until now.
Israeli company Cellebrite has developed a new tool called the Textalyzer that can check your phone activity to see if your device was being used around the time of an accident. You may be familiar with Cellebrite as the company that aided in unlocking the iPhone from the San Bernardino shooting in 2015 in order to access confidential data stored on the phone. Luckily, Cellebrite claims the Textalyzer will only give law enforcement officials access to time sensitive data about the device’s usage and will not give access to any content such as text conversations, contacts, photos, or app data.
In recent legislation proposed by New York State, drivers that are involved in an accident would have to submit their phones to be analyzed by the Textalyzer in addition to submitting to a breathalyzer test. The Textalyzer could then determine if the involved driver was using their phone before or during the accident right there at the scene of the crash.
While some are concerned about possible abuse of this technology and violations of the 4th amendment right of proper search and seizure, the new proposed legislation from New York would limit the Textalyzer to only be used after an accident or collision. Additionally, the Textalyzer would only be capturing evidence that a witness at the scene could hypothetically see from outside the car.
One thing to note is that there is currently no standardized test for drivers that are accused of texting such as a breathalyzer for drunk drivers. Drivers involved in accidents are typically pressured into willingly unlocking their phones for law enforcement, essentially giving them more access than the Textalyzer would allow, so putting this type of technology into law enforcement’s hands may actually help protect an individual from any type of abuse or privacy violation.