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I think this is worthy of attention from the cycling community.  There is a device police can use to determine if a smartphone was being used at the time of a crash.  Some aldermen want the city council to direct the police to use it routinely in crash investigations.

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Privacy advocates have a big problem with this. i'm all for cracking down on cell 'phone/texting use behind the wheel, but the technology will permit abuses in the hands of a police force not known for its respect of civil rights and liberties.

I am sure you are correct about that.  However, checking a phone after a crash is much less invasive than checking blood-alcohol content.  If the privacy advocates got over that, then they can get over this.

Checking a 'phone after a crash is simply a matter of pulling phone records (preferably w/ a warrant) from the carrier. i'm sure it is faster and less invasive than taking a BAC, but i'm leery of the potential abuses. i'm for requiring a warrant to search a 'phone's OS.

i'm guessing that in many cases the matter would be moot due to destruction of the device in the crash.

You technically can't be compelled to take a BAC test (at least without being placed under arrest) without a warrant.  If you refuse, however, state law allows the suspension of your driving privileges as a consequence.  Now, we could do the same thing for a textalizer test for texting and driving for sure, but I do think it'll be a harder sell for privacy advocates.  For one thing, with regards to BAC, it's generally perceived as a rather minimal invasion that is "fair" to most people that your driving privileges can be stripped for refusing, as the only "privacy" right you're really protecting by refusing a BAC test is your right against self incrimination (you're either legally drunk, or you're not, and the test doesn't reveal anything else to police). 

However, providing a device to police that allows them to hack through whatever security has been established on a phone (something Apple refused to do for law enforcement even when terrorism was at issue) to determine who and when you've sent texts presents much, much deeper privacy issues to many people.  It's a pretty heavy invasion of a traditional notion of privacy based solely on the possibility of illegal conduct, and is a pretty huge amount of power to hand police absent a traditional warrant.     

If the device can analyze your most recent texts, it can almostly certainly grab all your texts.  It might even be able to capture your emails, contacts, and other information (quite possibly including your health records, financial info, etc.).  Given the abuses that we've seen by the government, I think handing all of that over to the police and expecting them to limit themselves to a text or two is naive.

It's like the nose of the camel under the tent flap...

Unconstitutional to do this without a warrant.

Sadly, that doesn't stop a lot of cops.



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