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Telecom Industry and Privacy Rights Groups Oppose Police “Textalyzer” Phone Search Bill

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The New York Civil Liberties Union, along with telecommunications industry and privacy rights groups, issued a memo today outlining their concerns with the so-called “Textalyzer” bill. The legislation would allow law enforcement officers at the scene of a car accident to demand that a driver surrender their phone. Police would then use the as-yet-undeveloped and untested Textalyzer technology to help determine if a driver was using their phone at the time of the accident. If a person refuses to hand over their phone, their license can be suspended and revoked.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition joined the NYCLU on the memo.

The following statement is attributable to NYCLU Legislative Counsel, Rashida Richardson:

“Distracted driving is a serious concern, and that’s why we already have laws that allow police to access phones and phone records when they need to. But this bill gives police power to take and search peoples’ phones — which contain our most personal, private information — at every fender bender. We don’t yet know if Textalyzers can even detect distracted driving. But we are certain that enforcing this proposed law would violate people’s privacy and could potentially impute guilt for innocent activities.”

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