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Privacy Concerns Arise Over New York's 'Textalyzer' Bill

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A bill to let the police scan drivers' cell phones after a crash is gaining steam in Albany, but it has privacy advocates worried.

On Monday, lawmakers brought a prototype "textalyzer" to Albany to demonstrate what the police would be able to do at the roadside if the bill passes.

Much like a breathalyzer detects whether a driver is drunk, a so-called "textalyzer" would determine if a person was on the phone at the time of the crash.

"The device will detect swiping and typing, but doesn't even have the capabilities to get personal content, not even if it wanted to," said Ben Lieberman who has been an advocate against distracted driving since losing his 19 year-old-son Evan six years ago.

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But Rashida Richardson of the New York Civil Liberties Union is not convinced.

"There's no guarantee a device like that would be able to scan a phone without collecting private information on one's phone and there is also no way to ensure accuracy," she said.

Richardson said police already have access to phone records but Lieberman argues there is value in being able to gather evidence in about 90 seconds.

"We're very confident that it is legal and constitutional," Lieberman said.

Under the bill, if a driver refuses to surrender their phone their license can be suspended or revoked, according to a release from the NYCLU.

The purpose of the bill is to help aid police in the investigation after the crash, but the hope is that it will somehow act as a deterrent.

If the bill passes, New York would become the first state to use such technology.

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