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NJ Bill Violates Data Security Rights, ACLU Says

NJ Bill Violates Data Security Rights, ACLU Says
June 18, 2013
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A bill up for consideration in New Jersey would give police the right to review cellphone call logs of a person involved in an accident, if authorities believe talking or texting on the phone played a role in the crash. While supporters of the legislation say it could make roads safer for drivers, the bill has others concerned about data privacy and security.

Scott Vernick - of Center City's Fox Rothschild law firm, who specialized in data security and intellectual property law - said the bill likely breaches the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment.

"The question is, can you get it [the cellphone] without a warrant?" Vernick said, according to the Inquirer Trenton Bureau. "I am pretty sure it is not constitutional. I think we have a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures."

The bill also troubles the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, CNN reported.

"Our State and Federal Constitutions generally require probable cause before authorizing a search, particularly when it comes to areas that contain highly personal information such as cellphones," said Alexander Shalom of the ACLU-NJ, according to the source. "The legislature cannot authorize searches unless there is probable cause, therefore the bill is likely susceptible to a constitutional challenge."

Goal of the Legislation

While some fear the bill, if approved, it would disclose Americans' personal information, others say it will cut down on the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers. State Sen. Jim Holzapfel, who introduced the New Jersey bill, said he was encouraged to create the legislation after hearing about so many drivers, mainly teenagers, dying in car accidents caused by texting, the Inquirer reported.

The New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety reported 1,840 cellphone-related crashes in 2011 - proof Holzapfel said the state needs to encourage drivers to change behaviors behind the wheel.

He also disputes the bill puts personal information at risk and that police should be able to see if a driver involved in a crash was talking or texting on their phones at the time of the collision.

"I think it is reasonable for the officer to have access," he said. "I don't know that you can have a privacy expectation."

CNN reported 11 states in the nation ban talking on hand-held cellphones while driving and 41 states prohibit texting while driving. If approved, the New Jersey bill would be the first of its kind in the nation.

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