Login | December 16, 2017

Here comes the textalyzer

RICHARD WEINER
Technology for Lawyers

Published: June 30, 2017

Most states now have laws on the books prohibiting texting and driving (and lots of distracting road signs announcing that fact). But how exactly can it be proven that a driver was actually texting while driving?

Most drivers won’t exactly admit that fact to an arresting officer. It can take months and money for law enforcement to crack into a cell phone to see if and when the owner was texting.

So what can law enforcement do? Technology to the rescue, once more!

A mobile forensics company called Cellebrite (http://www.cellebrite.com), an international Israeli company with North American HQ in New Jersey, has developed the “textalyzer,” patterned after the breathalyzer, that can help law enforcement with determining, on the spot of a traffic stop, whether or not the driver was texting.

The textalyzer technology just plugs into a phone and gives a readout on when the phone was texting. Once connected, the textalyzer gives the past activities of that phone, with time stamps, in about 90 seconds. It would not reveal the contents of the texts, emails, etc., but just what apps were being used at what specific times. Law enforcement would, of course, still need a warrant to get access to the contents.

New York State has textalyzer legislation in process, using the same “implied consent” theory for textalyzing as statutes use for the breathalyzer. It looks like New York is the first state to introduce this legislation, although reportedly New Jersey, Tennessee and Chicago, among other jurisdictions, are looking at similar legislation, spurred on by advocacy groups like DORC (Distracted Operators Risk Casualties).

Of course, proposed legislation like this is looking at an uphill battle, given the US Supreme Court’s unanimous 2014 ruling in Riley v. California that cell phones need search warrants. It’s also up against the ACLU and, I’m guessing, other legal groups.

Also, Cellebrite’s textalyzer product is still in development, and it is not clear what privacy protection measures are being built into the technology. However, the product would of necessity have to be adaptable to different jurisdictional, legal and evidentiary rules and standards once it rolls out.

I’m looking for the function in the textalyzer that gives direct access to the Matrix code.


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