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The following appeared on the national news site of the Netherlands this morning:

Minister Schultz zint op maatregelen om te voorkomen dat een automobilist onder het rijden kan appen of sms'en. De minister vraagt telecombedrijven een techniek te ontwikkelen die de telefoon tijdens de rit compleet 'overneemt'.

Translated:

Minister Schultz is looking for provisions to prevent a car driver from using WhatsApp or sending texts while driving. The minister asks telecom companies to develop technologies to completely 'take over' the cellphone.

(source) Dutch

Regardless of whether that's a good idea or not, I strongly suspect the Dutch politicians would be stepping way out of line by even proposing such an idea.

Is it realistically feasible for a western cabinet to take this to the next level and implement whatever is required to make this happen?

I suspect companies can't be forced to cooperate, but I honestly don't know. A change of law would probably be required as well. The European Union may even have laws rendering this whole suggestion null and void.

closed as off-topic by Rathony, bytebuster, lazarusL, K Dog, Panda Dec 9 '16 at 9:29

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about governments, policies and political processes within the scope defined in the help center." – bytebuster, K Dog, Panda
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    "I suspect companies can't be forced to cooperate" Companies must follow the law so yes, they may be forced to cooperate. – SJuan76 Nov 28 '16 at 12:46
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    If your question is whether current law supports the creation of such provisions, you probably want the Law Stack Exchange. If your question is whether this is technically feasible, you probably want Security Stack Exchange. As it stands, I don't think this question is really about politics. – IllusiveBrian Nov 28 '16 at 15:55
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    @IllusiveBrian - According to our Help page, this is on topic. It is an example of "Matters of Policy", and is specifically covered under the description as the "costs of legislation". The feasibility of a policy is most certainly a part of assessing its cost. – indigochild Nov 28 '16 at 20:48
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    @indigochild I've rolled back your edit. The article specifically mentions taking over the phone, not just preventing certain actions. If that was in any way unclear, I can emphasize it more on request. – Mast Dec 1 '16 at 17:54
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    SJuam76: Except for the EU, where (national) law can be trumped by EU regulations. In particular, access to the internal market is NOT a national competency. – MSalters Dec 2 '16 at 15:44
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In response to: "Is it realistically feasible for a western cabinet to take this to the next level and implement whatever is required to make this happen?"

Of course. not as a matter of censorship or limitation of free speech but as a matter of public safety.

All smart phones capable of operating "WhatsApp or sending texts while driving" have GPS sensors that can determine whether or not the smart phone is in motion.

Legislators simply have to require either app or smart phone to prohibit talking or texting when smart phone senses that it is moving above a threshold speed, such as, e.g., 5 or 10 kmph/mph

An argument against such limitation would be that smart phone would not be able to distinguish if device was being used by a passenger in a private car (same public safety argument could be made that by extension the driver would be distracted) but more problematic would be for passengers on commercial transportation.

But such arguments against implementation address 'social acceptability" and are immaterial to your question of whether or not it would be feasible.

Since all of the technology already exists and is already present in smart phones, the only thing needed would be 'a few' lines of code and a software update. So, yes, it is feasible.

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    "the only thing needed would be 'a few' lines of code" - and that's all it would take to defeat the restriction. I hope people see how silly such an effort would be. – Nathan Osman Nov 30 '16 at 21:02
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    For what it's worth, Waze (a navigation app) will throw up a "Typing is disabled while driving" prompt if you try to enter anything while in motion. It also has a "Passenger" button to dismiss the prompt. I'm not saying I've done this, but it's very easy to lie to the app... – Bobson Dec 1 '16 at 12:04
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    @Bobson Thanks for validating the reality of my post. Few consumers would be able to add the necessary code to defeat the restriction. And, the absence of a 'Passenger' button would make the prohibition fairly rigid. Again, speaking of engineering feasibility, not social constraints. – James Jan 9 '17 at 2:35
  • I can’t wait to see how the market for GPS sensor removal/tampering springs up. :) – Obie 2.0 Mar 16 '18 at 21:14
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This is a tricky matter because it crosses legislative boundaries, but my hunch is no, this is disallowed. (and mere electoral posturing - Dutch elections coming up).

The legislative boundary here is EU versus national legislature. The internal market is a European matter, and the Dutch legislature may not introduce laws to interfere with its working. Road safety is a matter of the national legislature, however. But the question here is whether telecom companies are subject to road law ("WegenVerkeersWet 1994"). They're obviously not pedestrians, vehicle drivers nor vehicle manufacturers.

I therefore conclude that Minister Schultz lacks the necessary authority.

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The minister asks telecom companies to develop technologies to completely 'take over' the cellphone.

I strongly suspect the Dutch politicians would be stepping way out of line by even proposing such an idea

It is definitely a "police state" idea, and many liberal-minded people would be against it. However, the risks of texting and driving are very high; it is clear that lives would be placed at risk if privacy rights would be interpreted in a way that hampers the possibilities for investigating texting and driving incidents. On this basis, many conservative-minded people would be willing to stretch a point or two on privacy rights to ensure safety.

Due to the safety aspects, I don't think it would be seen as "stepping way out of line" to propose such an idea. It would attract both criticism and support.

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    The question asks about whether this policy is feasible, not whether it is stepping out of line. This doesn't attempt to answer the question. – indigochild Nov 29 '16 at 21:40

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