An electronic device called “Textalyzer” has recently made headlines showing how it can help law enforcement authorities to tackle the issue of distracted driving. But the privacy advocates are calling it a privacy invasion.

Textalyzer is an electronic tablet size device which will allow the cops in the United States to see if drivers have been using their cellphones whilst driving. That’s not all; the device aims to crack down suspects by recording their every click, tap or swipe. It would even know what apps the drivers are using. Police officers can also download all the data from the suspect’s smartphone within a few seconds right on the spot.

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Once the police officer witnesses a driver driving recklessly or under the influence, they will simply connect the device to the driver’s smartphone and scan their emails, calls or even text messages sent while driving.

Image Credit: Cellebrite

Think about it like a breathalyzer device which helps to measure the amount of alcohol in a driver’s breath. However, in the case of Textalyzer, the officer will have complete access to user data.

Textalyzer is developed by Cellebrite, an Israeli hacking firm which previously made news when it was reported that FBI used its services to unlock San Bernardino Gunman’s iPhone device. 

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It must be noted that Cellebrite once claimed it could crack any locked smartphone. Also, about four months ago the company revealed that its researchers could unlock and extract data from iPhone 4S, 5, 5C, 5S, Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S7.

As for Textalyzer, the device was tested by NBC’s Jeff Rossen who visited Cellebrite’s headquarters to see how it works – which ended up being quite a shocker. 

Rossen took his cellphone and drove in the company’s parking lot. While driving, he made a call, scrolled his Facebook account, sent a text message and a message via WhatsApp. He then gave his phone to the Cellebrite’s CEO Jim Grady who plugged the phone with Textalyzer which started to download its data and activities.

It also downloaded the information regarding apps used on Rossen’s smartphone. Upon finishing the downloading process, Grady revealed that:

“I can see that you opened WhatsApp at 2:45. There’s several Facebook activity. You received an incoming call at 2:59 and you sent an SMS at 3 o’clock.”

NBC’s Jeff Rossen and Cellebrite’s CEO Jim Grady (Image Credit: NBC)

While the device is still under testing phase, privacy advocates are already criticizing its algorithm aiming at collecting user’s private data. In a conversation with Today, Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that: 

“There’s no guarantee when you hand over your cell phone over to the police officer that that officer won’t be looking at or copying all kinds of personal data about you.”

However, Grady denied collecting any personal data. In an interview with Today, Grady said that:

“We’re not getting anything about what was said in the texts or who it was said to. Just the touches and swipes.”

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Waqas

Waqas Amir is a Milan-based cybersecurity journalist with a passion for covering latest happenings in cyber security and tech world. In addition to being the founder of this website, Waqas is also into gaming, reading and investigative journalism.