Invasive tech is upon us
*Rod Serling voice* Consider if you will the American automobile: bastion of freedom and an island of soothing privacy in the endless race of the working day. But suppose a machine existed that could break this bastion, invade the island, and learn your secret, private thoughts whilst engaged in that most American of activities – the daily drive. Well, such a machine is a reality in…
*Matt voice* ACTUAL 2017, you guys.
This is not the Twilight Zone, and this is not a drill.
The Textalyzer. What. What.
This is it. At 30 years old, I have officially become an old person screaming at technology. OK. OK. I’m OK. I did that “breathe in a paper bag” thing for a second and I’m back now.
What does it actually see?
The Textalyzer is, by all appearances, a hardcoded tablet designed to hack your phone and determine your recent activity. It’s being developed for use by law enforcement, and the present developer is explicit in limiting functionality to reading timestamps and duration.
Message content and app data are not, he says emphatically, part of the deal, just if you were doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.
The concern is distracted driving, which is a big deal.
With trouble comes repercussion
Distracted driving caused 3,477 fatalities in 2015 alone, per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of which a substantial chunk came from texting or otherwise smartphoning while driving.
It’s a big enough problem that the flippin’ CDC has gotten involved, with stats and details to be found here.
That said, it’s easy to overstate the numbers on vehicular dangers, because driving is by a wide margin the most dangerous thing most Americans do. Traffic fatalities in general spiked in 2015, and you guys know the rule about correlation and causation.
So is this a threat, or do we have nothing to fear?
All the same, as usual, I’m in favor of the robot apocalypse, at least on a limited scale. A test of the Textalyzer in a controlled environment could provide useful statistics both on the value of the tool and on the overall significance of smartphones and driving.
At best, it represents a tool like blood alcohol analysis, a bit of hard data we can use to make our streets safer. At worst, a controlled test will make it clear that the invasion of privacy outweighs any practical impact.
I for one welcome our new swipe-left overlords. Just stay out of my Internet history.