Police have submitted a proposal to Congress to require wireless providers to record all text messages and store the information for at least two years. This is in response to a retention requirement that will be discussed by Congress about updating a 1986 privacy law to make it relevant for cloud computing.
The Growth of Texting
As more people use text messages to communicate in place of traditional phone calls and even emails, law enforcement has also increased their use in investigations for criminal and civil issues.
Currently, the service providers do not have a standard that they follow. Verizon holds onto text messages for a short time, while T-Mobile does not store them in the first place. A document that had been leaked stated that Verizon keeps messages for 3 to 5 days, Nextel has content for 7 days, and Sprint stores messages for 12 days. A spokeswoman for US Cellular said they keep text messages for 3 to 5 days and turn over all information for a lawful request. She said that in the past five years, they have received more than 103,000 requests as either subpoenas, search warrants, or court orders.
The police association was not alone in this proposal. The National District Attorneys’ Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association, and the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies all support this request.
If this proposal is accepted by Congress; it will mean storage of a lot of information. Last year, over 2 trillion messages were sent in the US. Text messages have been used in cases involving wire fraud, cocaine distribution, and armed robbery. It will be interesting to see if this sort of legislation will push more users to alternative messaging services that fall out of mobile service provider’s jurisdiction.
New laws are increasingly being proposed surrounding internet issues. The Justice Department has called for laws that require Internet service providers to keep data on all of their customers. There are those who oppose such laws and will fight to prevent them from being enacted.
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