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Cops Want Logs Of Your Text Messages


Law enforcement groups want wireless providers to store information about your text messages for at least two years. Y’know, just in case you might do something later.

As Congress considers updating the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which was written when I was little more than a mass of unbridled need, the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association has suggested to the US Senate that all records of text messaging be retained for two years. 

For its part, the Senate Judiciary Committee just approved a number of amendments to the ECPA, most notably the requirement that law enforcement personnel will have to obtain a search warrant in order to access a suspect’s e-mails. State and federal law enforcement groups appear ready to have a fight over text messages.

In case you’re wondering — yeah, CNET’s been all over this thing.

As of 2010, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile did not store the contents of your text messages. Verizon did for up to five days. Carriers would vary as far as the “metadata,” or in layman’s terms, essentially the logs of text messages and numbers attached to them. So back then, they may know that you texted your ex-girlfriend, but for the most part, they wouldn’t know what that text said.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation makes their stance pretty clear:

These data retention policies serve one purpose: to require companies to keep databases on their customers so law enforcement can fish for evidence. And this would seem to be done against the wishes of the providers, presumably, since…some of the providers don’t keep SMS messages at all.

The privacy battle has been ongoing and continues to heat up. Some lawmakers are pushing ISPs to record your Internet traffic. Google and Facebook threw a party to recruit legislators to update the ECPA and also simplify its infamously impenetrable wording.

Question: Do you think it’s reasonable for wireless carriers to hold text message info for a certain period of time?