The Textalyzer

Stay below the legal limit – 0.

Distracted driving is becoming increasingly problematic in the United States and all over the world. Automobile accident fatality rates have increased dramatically over the last two years. The suspected culprit… texting and driving. Well, not only texting, but also Snapchatting, rifling through your playlist, checking e-mail, Candy Crushing, Tweeting, Facebooking, adjusting Google Maps, and scrolling through the Internet. Cell phone usage while driving is illegal in 47 states and the District of Columbia, but we see drivers of all ages doing it every day. One proposed solution is a machine dubbed the “Textalyzer.” It’s made by Cellebrite (the same company that made the software that can break into locked iPhones) and would give police officers the ability to access a driver’s phone after a crash or traffic infraction to see if they were using the device in the time leading up to the crash. The officer would plug the Textalyzer into the driver’s cell phone and retrieve a history of what they’ve been up to. They claim the content of texts or searches will not be accessible to the officers, just information about the time and length of usage on the phone. This data would, however, include exactly what apps you were using at exactly what time. Even just a swipe of the screen can be detected.


The hope is that this new technology would be a way to enforce texting bans just as the Breathalyzer is to enforce illegal drinking and driving. New York will be the first state to test the waters – they haven’t employed the technology yet, but a study was ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year. Almost 3000 people were injured in cellphone-related crashes in New York state from 2011-2015, according to the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research, and the state issued 1.2 million tickets for cellphone violations in the same time period. It’s a life and death issue.

We all want safer roads. Is this the only way to get them?

So here’s a chance for us to get out ahead of the tech. Let’s hear the privacy concerns and the responses to them. Let’s talk about the Fourth Amendment and whether or not this device infringes on our right to be exempt from unreasonable searches and seizures. Right now is the time to ask questions about the software, how it will be implemented, how the police will avoid profiling and unequal treatment while using it, what will happen to people who “fail” the scan, and how we can avoid seizing a phone used by a passenger instead of a driver.

Resources: 

Share this page: