Legal Matters

Cops Want Carriers to Hang On to Your Incriminating Old Text Messages

Maybe now's the time to move any incriminating messages to paper, which you can at least burn after reading.
Hullo there. (Photo: flickr.com/nate)

Hullo there. (Photo: flickr.com/nate)

Hey, it’s the 20th anniversary of the invention of text messaging! How shall we celebrate? How about with an attempt by law enforcement agencies to make sure they have access to your old SMS messages, in case they need to issue any search warrants?

CNET reports:

A constellation of law enforcement groups has asked the U.S. Senate to require that wireless companies retain that information, warning that the lack of a current federal requirement “can hinder law enforcement investigations.”

Currently there’s no standard industry practice on archiving text messages. As recently as 2010, T-Mobile (for example) wasn’t saving them at all–though that doesn’t mean you should use their wireless services to plan your next bodega robbery. But the Senate Judiciary Committee is currently considering possible revisions to the 1986 Electronic Communications Act, which is now woefully outdated, and cops want a requirement they (or at least the logs of who texted who when) be retained for two years.

If the measure is adopted, it’ll mean carriers have to hold on to quite a bit of data: CNET says there were more than 2 trillion text messages sent in the U.S. alone over the last year.

Luckily the measure hasn’t been adopted yet, so there’s still time to move all communications with your drug dealer over to trained pigeons.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com