New York state legislators are considering a bill that would use roadside technology to help determine whether drivers involved in auto accidents had unlawfully been texting behind the wheel, Ars Technica reported.
The device, dubbed the “textalyzer,” is being developed by Cellebrite, an Israeli firm said that reportedly worked with the FBI to unlock an iPhone belonging to an assailant in December’s shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. The bill would require drivers involved in accidents to submit their phones for testing to check whether they were texting at the time of the crash.
New York passed a law in 2001 prohibiting the use of mobile phones while driving, and in 2009 the law was expanded to include all portable electronic devices. The bill claims that although New York law enforcement authorities have established “text stops” along all major highways where drivers can pull over to use their phones, car crashes are up 14 percent this year and fatalities are up 8 percent, “suggesting that the problem has not only gotten worse, but it is still greatly misunderstood.”
And officers struggle to enforce no-texting laws in part because it’s often impossible to determine whether a driver was using the phone at the time of an accident, the legislation continues.
Ars Technica reported that the textalyzer reportedly maintains the privacy of phone content such as conversations, contacts and app data in an effort to protect the driver’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy. A warrant could be required for further analysis to determine whether a driver was using a hands-free system.
The New York bill underscores the ever-increasing concerns around privacy and security surrounding the use of mobile phones, which generates a staggering amount of data. The recent standoff between Apple and the U.S. Department of Justice was an extremely high-profile example, but it’s far from the only one.