Several law enforcement groups, including chiefs of police, sheriffs’ associations are pushing Congress to pass a law saying your carrier has to record and store your text messages.
When investigating a crime, police can follow a trail of phone calls and e-mails, but text messages are much harder to track down. Now, there’s a controversial, new push to persuade Congress to make it easier to see what you’re typing and receiving on your cell phone.
Several law enforcement groups, including chiefs of police, sheriffs’ associations are pushing Congress to pass a law saying your carrier has to record and store your text messages, reports CNN.
It’s not clear how long they want them stored.
Scott Burns of the National District Attorneys’ Association, one of the groups pushing for the new law, says his group favors a period of three or four months, maybe longer, if an investigation is urgent.
“If you’re in the middle of an investigation and bad guys are communicating back and forth, whether it’s a homicide, whether it’s evidence of a crime, it’s crucial. I mean 20 years ago we weren’t talking about this. Today everybody has a cell phone, everybody texts and e-mails and is on social media. And that’s where the evidence is today,” said Burns.
As of 2010, major carriers like AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile do not retain any content of customers’ text messages. They get rid of them immediately. Verizon keeps them only for up to five days.
Why can’t law enforcement get the texts from individual cell phones? Burns says it’s faster and more efficient to get it from the carriers, and he points out that of course, the bad guys often erase their incriminating texts.
But many believe the law enforcement benefit of mining texts doesn’t outweigh privacy concerns. Chris Calabrese of the ACLU says with some 60 billion text messages sent every day, there’s just too much private information that would be stored.