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Controversial "textalyzer" the subject of bill proposal

Virginia residents may have heard that Nevada state legislature is proposing the use of a controversial device called the "textalyzer" among its police force. The device, developed by the Israel-based company Cellebrite and the subject of a previous proposal made by the New York legislature, may be effective in curbing the widespread and deadly trend of distracted driving.

What the textalyzer does is scan phones for user activity, such as the opening of a Facebook messenger call screen. With this information, police can determine if a driver was distracted prior to a crash. Cellebrite states that the device does not store or access any personal content, but concerns remain that it may violate the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

Some experts support the textalyzer and say that, being only minimally intrusive, it does not constitute a violation. One policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union opines that the technology should be open sourced; that way, the public can ensure that the textalyzer does not access personal content.

Another concern is that the textalyzer bill may not be necessary. For example, the bill requires police to obtain a warrant to access phones when drivers refuse to have them scanned. Police already have this right. The bill originally punished uncooperative drivers with a 90-day license suspension, but this was revised.

However the proposal may fare, it does address a common form of negligence. Motor vehicle accidents are often the cause of drivers who call, text or surf the web behind the wheel. When there is clear proof of distracted driving, those on the other side may be able to file a lawsuit. In Virginia, plaintiffs can only recover damages when defendants are 100 percent to blame for a crash, so seeing a lawyer for a case evaluation may be a crucial step.

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