Law enforcement officers are attempting to change U.S. law, requiring cellular service providers to store logs of text messages processed on their networks — allowing authorities access to logs in the event of a criminal investigation.
AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile would be required to record and store customer’s text messages for no less than two years, according to the proposal.
Richard Littlehale, a supervisor with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, testified Tuesday morning in front of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, further supporting the push toward text message recording and retention.
“Billions of texts are sent every day, and some surely contain key evidence about criminal activity … In some cases, this means that critical evidence is lost,” Littlehale said.
He believes that law enforcement officials should have unfettered access to cell phone provider records and that a minimum time period — one year — should be set in place so that service providers must maintain the records accordingly.
Data retention policies are currently something that individual providers determine, and there isn’t any set of laws that govern how long records should be kept.
The American Civil Liberties Union obtained a Justice Department memo in 2011 that showed, as of 2010, that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint weren’t storing text message data, but Verizon was keeping the records for a period of three to five days, and Virgin Mobile was retaining SMS information for 90 days.
Littlehale wants to ensure that law enforcement can track down criminals and use text message information to do so, but he realizes this is a slippery slope when it comes to American’s privacy.
“Just as there is no question that people have an interest in preserving the privacy of that information … There can be no question that some of that information holds the keys to finding an abducted child, apprehending a dangerous fugitive, or preventing a terrorist attack,” Littlehale said.
As of June 2012, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association reported that in the U.S. alone almost 185 billion text messages are sent and received.
So what are your thoughts? Should cellular service providers be allowed to maintain long-term records of our text messages? Let’s discuss further in the comments below.
Chase Williams is a serial entrepreneur, professional procrastinator, dreamer, explorer and risk taker. He's been weightless aboard a NASA C9-B aircraft and his head hasn't quite come back down from the upper-atmosphere. To keep up with his low-oxygen chatter, follow him on Twitter @ChaseHWill