Policy & Law
Law enforcement representatives have asked Congress to require that all US cellular carriers store text message records for a minimum of two years, according to a report from Cnet. As lawmakers consider amending the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association and other enforcement groups are pushing for legislation addressing SMS log preservation. Police maintain that text conversations, now in their 20th year, often contain evidence vital to investigations and current policies among US providers are said to be inadequate — for those companies that bother to record logs in the first place.
Cops want all carriers playing by the same rules
Carriers generally store rudimentary data for past messages (the numbers involved, a timestamp of when the conversation occurred, etc.) for several months, but the actual content of those chats can be permanently lost within days. A Justice Department memo publicized last year shows that Verizon stores detailed logs for between three and five days while AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile apparently keep no such records at all. Standardizing the practice would grant law agencies confidence that those records would be there should a need to examine them arise.
But it's also sure to unhinge privacy advocates concerned by a growing push for more surveillance and less restraint among authorities. Reports from carriers uncovered in July outline a startling spike in surveillance requests among law enforcement, with many circumventing the need to obtain a warrant to dig through customer records. That trend extends to the federal government, with the number of monitoring requests from the Justice Department also skyrocketing in recent years.