A New York legislator is proposing a new law that would mandate the creation of a device, similar to a Breathalyzer, that instead of detecting blood-alcohol level instead analyzes mobile phones to determine if they were being used before a crash. He calls it the Textalyzer.
It would work like this: An officer arriving at the scene of a crash could ask for the phones of any drivers involved and use the Textalyzer to tap into the operating system to check for recent activity.
The technology could determine whether a driver had used the phone to text, email or do anything else that is forbidden under New York’s hands-free driving laws, which prohibit drivers from holding phones to their ear. Failure to hand over a phone could lead to the suspension of a driver’s license, similar to the consequences for refusing a Breathalyzer.
Keep in mind, this device doesn’t yet exist, except as a prototype. Now, setting aside all the privacy and constitutional concerns–which are not insignificant–the fact is that this legislation is technologically unworkable. Despite the claims of the company creating the Textalyzer software, this is no simple task, if only because it has to work for every brand of mobile phone on the market. And has to keep up with every security update. And deal with increasing level of encryption. Not to mention sideloaded security apps that don’t go through the app store and designed specifically to defeat such measures.
Just because you can theoretically imagine a technology doesn’t mean that can be the basis for legislation. We don’t live in Star Trek and you don’t have Scotty/LaForge/O’Brien at your disposal to invent the solution by the end of the episode.