Police want every text message to be saved

text-message-privacy

Prosecutors in Massachusetts used text messages sent by Nathaniel Fujita (right) to convict him earlier this month in the murder of his former girlfriend, Lauren Astley. (AP)

Most people think online privacy is important, but police didn’t get that message.

Law enforcement groups ranging from the U.S. Justice Department to local police departments are asking Congress to pass legislation that forces wireless phone carriers to save every text message customers send, reports CNET’s Declan McCullagh.

Police say criminal investigations are “being frustrated” because companies don’t retain information, or don’t retain it long enough.

“Billions of texts are sent every day, and some surely contain key evidence about criminal activity,” Richard Littlehale from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation told Congress.

If new legislation is passed to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, hard drive stock should skyrocket.

Phone carriers retain text message info for varying amounts of time. In 2010, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint did not store the contents of text messages. Verizon did for up to five days and Virgin Mobile kept them for 90 days. The carriers generally kept metadata such as the phone numbers associated with the text for 90 days to 18 months, CNET reports. AT&T kept that info as long as seven years.

Current law requires a search warrant be obtained before police can obtain emails, text and instant messages. Emails older than 180 days require only a subpoena.

A warrant is also required for a phone to be tapped by law enforcement agencies or for a physical document to be removed from a home. ProPublica has a nice article explaining all of this called  ”No Warrant, No Problem: How The Government Can Still Get Your Digital Data.”

A warrant is not needed to get a list of phone calls made to and from a phone. The Justice Department  is also proposing eliminating privacy protections covering e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging and other services, arguing that police should be able to find out who people are communicating with online without obtaining a warrant.

Google, the only company asked to testify at the Tuesday hearing before the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, wants online documents to have the same privacy protections as those “stored in a desk drawer,” according to an article on AdAge.com.

“There is no compelling policy or legal rationale” for online documents having less privacy protection, said a Google legal representative.

Personally, I don’t much care if cops are reading my text messages or emails. They’d get bored pretty quickly. But I think private citizens should be notified if police, or anyone else, requests that information.

80 comments Add your comment

SA

March 20th, 2013
12:28 pm

KMA law enforcement

Billy

March 20th, 2013
12:32 pm

It might make the difference in a case where either justice is served or denied. If you don’t have anything to hide, why worry about it? If you’re voting PBO, you’ve already signed all your rights away…

Class of '98

March 20th, 2013
12:36 pm

If the law passes and all texts are stored, police say it will help them convict criminals.

Fine, that’s all well and good. Since it will be easier to convict, we should offset the rising costs of mobile phone service that will result by downsizing police forces. Everybody’s happy.

Me

March 20th, 2013
12:40 pm

I don’t think any of it should be made available. All of this digital data should be treated exactly like the conversation that it is. Private between the parties involved. Police had to perform “real” work prior to the digital age so they should be able to collect concrete evidence when there is a crime. They want the easy way out apparently.

Yag Kosher

March 20th, 2013
12:43 pm

“Police had to perform “real” work prior to the digital age so they should be able to collect concrete evidence when there is a crime. They want the easy way out apparently.”

Spoken like a true perp.

clanmack

March 20th, 2013
12:48 pm

The camel’s nose has been in the tent and this will bring his head and foul breath in. The Fourth Amendment is being eviscerated and this will make it worse. There should be more outrage about this legislation than all the outrage about high capacity magazines and assault weapons bans. You don’t have to prove you are in imminent danger to buy a weapon (2nd Amendment), why should I have “something to hide” to justify protecting my privacy against unreasonable search and seizure. I have the expectation of privacy if the data is not being held, or if I send it to only specific recipients, etc. just like my own home. I am with Google, it is private and should require a judge to pass judgement on a subpoena. Law Enforcement should not get a pass on this one, EVER.

John Burningham

March 20th, 2013
12:50 pm

This could SOLVE our unemployment problem! The gov could require not only the saving of all text messages, emails, twits, and record all phone calls; then without just cause hire 25,000,000 people to listen/read everything. I wonder who gets to monitor politician’s communications?

Maybe we should also be required to all wear listening devices so the government could record all our speech. Maybe we should also be required to keep copies of all mail we receive from the Post Office and forward via Federal Expree to the Gov for their reading pleasure.

Police work...

March 20th, 2013
12:50 pm

Next you will see devices added to cars that tell the police when you go over the posted speed limit, so they can mail you a ticket

clanmack

March 20th, 2013
12:51 pm

@ Yag Kosher contribute or but out. Using argumentum ad hominem isn’t even clever. What is your point of view about this article? Have enough courage to speak your mind.

Idonttinkso

March 20th, 2013
12:55 pm

First ALPR capturing photos of your car, storing the exact location, time and date of your travels and storing that info INDEFINELTY

Terrie S

March 20th, 2013
12:56 pm

As a domestic violence advocate, it has become increasingly important for my victims to have “proof” of threats from electronic media…….I say things like this SHOULD be available to the person who is on the receiving end of them, and in turn, could be passed on to law enforcement, the courts, or advocates such as myself. No one has time to look at every instance of electronic communication, but in cases where it is necessary for a victim, the information should be there simply for the asking!

steveo

March 20th, 2013
12:56 pm

once again, it’s not your right to privacy when you are leasing the private technology used to have that conversation. Unless the wire, phone, hardware and software are all yours, you cannot claim rights to it.

No different than not having the “right” to drive a car on public roads.

Weyman C. Wannamaker Jr.

March 20th, 2013
12:57 pm

Are they required to store voice communications? Those using email or texting for nefarious purposes would just change to different methods. On the other hand unfettered access to texts by the government of Iran was how they were able to conduct a crackdown on “dissidents” a couple of years ago.

This legislation would require storage of trillions of bytes of useless information on the chance that a few bytes would result in foiling crime.

bushy

March 20th, 2013
1:01 pm

Anyone who doesn’t understand that privacy laws, and constitutional protections are important whether you are a criminal or not, is beyond stupid. These are the same people who would side with the invaders if the US were attacked. With that mentality or lack of, we’d still be a British colony, and they’d still be licking boots.

MANGLER

March 20th, 2013
1:06 pm

OMG Bro 50 N2 us GTG

Logical Dude

March 20th, 2013
1:30 pm

“The Justice Department is also proposing eliminating privacy protections covering e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging and other services, arguing that police should be able to find out who people are communicating with online without obtaining a warrant.”

And WOW, onward into the Big Brother world, where you have no privacy from government.
Thank you Google for at least thinking in real/legal terms.
““There is no compelling policy or legal rationale” for online documents having less privacy protection, said a Google legal representative.”

MattMD

March 20th, 2013
1:32 pm

Steveo—

According to that logic then the police wouldn’t need to get a warrant from a court to tap your phone lines. You might want to brush up on basic laws regarding one’s right to privacy.

MattMD

March 20th, 2013
1:33 pm

@bushy-

Yes, the number of milquetoasts in this society is downright appalling.

Drudge

March 20th, 2013
1:41 pm

So with concepts like this for SMS, email, internet usage, Homeland Security buying 3000 tanks, 1.6BN rounds of ammo, dozens of drones – do those of us wary of increasing government reach sound all that crazy as the days go by? Your emails, texts, phone calls – one poster mentioned a device in your car to detect your speed – California wants to assess taxes on drivers with the same device – based on how much you drive. It’s scary to me, I don’t ever see these reaches decreasing, just liberty slipping away, one misguided attention at a time.

Calvin G. Sims, Sr.

March 20th, 2013
1:43 pm

I am not concerned because I have anything to hide. I am concerned because I know that information is subject to interpretation. Information can be taken out of context or just downright misunderstood. For that reason, I am not in favor of this access by police.

Go Falcons !!!

Drudge

March 20th, 2013
1:43 pm

steveo – a public road is not a private service you have leased. if you rent an apartment the police don’t have the right to come in whenever they want because you don’t own the property.

jarvis

March 20th, 2013
1:45 pm

Absurd.

Seveo – your argument is frivilous. The government is who is asking to have the data saved….not the service providers. Last time I checked the government doesn’t own any of the things you mentioned.

I Verizon wants the expense of saving everything ever sent using their service, then that’s up to them. It’s not the government’s place to require a 3rd party to hold on to information they have no interest in having.

That’s like asking a hotel to save all things discarded in it’s rooms in the off chance that the garbage is needed for evidence.

Not for it

March 20th, 2013
1:47 pm

Communism it is a coming.. Sure glad I am old. There will not be any privacy or freedoms left in this country in ten years.

Al

March 20th, 2013
1:47 pm

The point is, how far will they go. I believe in catching the bad guys, but what are willing to give up to do it. It’s all about personal privacy. We seem to be losing it all. Give the govt. an inch they’ll take a mile.

Peacefulli

March 20th, 2013
1:51 pm

They’ll come up with some tragedy to change the public’s view. It never fails every time they want to change the minds of the people they create a tragic event. We begged for more airport security and strip searches by the TSA.

Sam Cochran

March 20th, 2013
1:52 pm

As a retired LEO, I see both pros and cons but I have to agree with clanmack – digital data should be entitled to the same 4th Amendment protections as telephone communications. We do have an expectation of privacy when we communicate via text, email, tweet, or whatever new method comes along. Once we start giving up our rights, even if “you have nothing to hide”, the question becomes “where does it end”???

Ignorance is...

March 20th, 2013
1:56 pm

Hmm, so if it was YOUR family member or loved one that was lets say, murdered. You’re going to sit there and say to a detective, “No, I don’t want you to have access to the person who killed my family member / loved ones text messaging. It’s an invasion of their (the murderer’s) privacy.” I call BS! The only people that have anything to hide are the one’s doing things that need hiding…jus sayin’

georgian patriot

March 20th, 2013
1:59 pm

INVASION OF PRIVICY 101… Just look @ small town u.s.a. Here almost everyone knows everyone and you act like some cops are not dirty and would sell the info… Not to mention private photos of wives. I wish u ppl would open your eyes and see what your really voting on. This has hardly anything to do with murders and will be abused by the corrupt law especially in smaller towns where there is rarely even robberies… How about you sorry cops wanting to use cell phones to be nosey and do your job for you in ur 50,000 person town watch the first 48 those guys make the world a safer place not if some kid makes a pot buy… This is a joke GOOGLE stand up for us u have the means. God Bless America

amen ra

March 20th, 2013
2:00 pm

they are in our life to much as it is

Sam Cochran

March 20th, 2013
2:06 pm

@Ignorance is…

It’s not a matter of not wanting LE to have access to text and other digital data, it’s a matter of requiring the same process as if it were telephone data – get a judge to sign off on a search warrant for that information.

Atlanta Mom

March 20th, 2013
2:13 pm

This may bring back land lines.

Darwin at Work

March 20th, 2013
2:17 pm

To the low informationers out there with the comment “You shouldn’t have anything to hide”….I suppose you don’t mind just anyone reading your texts then do you, not just the fuzz.

Same Ole' Same

March 20th, 2013
2:21 pm

What about telegraph service ?? Can they save & access that ??? What about pigeons ? What about sign language ? Stay off the grid as much as you can people !! Last days are upon us !! LOL

A Cop

March 20th, 2013
2:22 pm

A warrant or subpoena IS still required. The police only want companies to make the date available for a longer period of time. Geez! How is this a violation of your 4th amendment rights when a judge is signing off on the warrant or subpoena. By the way, the 4th amendment only protects against UNREASONABLE search and seizure.

jarvis

March 20th, 2013
2:23 pm

If you don’t have anything to hide….why even have warrants?

The police should just be able to walk into your home at any time and take a look around? Only criminals wouldn’t want them digging around in your private matters.

Bluto

March 20th, 2013
2:31 pm

They already have access to this data with a warrant, no reason to change anything.

KBOfAtl

March 20th, 2013
2:35 pm

Do the police have any idea how much storage space and equipment it would take to store every text message? Archiving is a very high dollar suggestion. Rather than having a server room with ten servers, and (possibly) fifty virtual servers, they are asking companies to take on the cost of having an ever growing server population, and that’s insane. We, as consumers, would absorb the cost. A cell phone bill that was $100 per month, can possibly be double that in order to pay for that infrastructure. Apparently, this is not thought through at all. Aren’t cops supposed to be known for due diligence and proper investigation? If so, they’d know the ramifications of this type of request.

MrLiberty

March 20th, 2013
2:37 pm

If you were wondering, YES, this is exactly what a POLICE STATE looks like. Put down your books on E. Germany, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, etc. Amerika has its own flavor of oppressive/totalitarian state. Now shut up and salute the flag like you were taught in school.

Roekest

March 20th, 2013
2:39 pm

F- that you Gestapo thugs!

Thurgood Marshall

March 20th, 2013
2:42 pm

The government is intrusive enough already. The police of today are nothing like they were even 20 years ago. This is an oppressive move by law enforcement. They’re already thugs with a badge. Whats next?

Dee

March 20th, 2013
2:47 pm

John Burningham politician’s communications would be excluded just like everything else. I’m tired of my rights being violated. Shouldn’t it stay private it since if I communicate with paper and pen, I can just shred it and it is gone. Police can’t do anything about that. I guess next they will want all calls recorded.

Ron Commander

March 20th, 2013
2:49 pm

I only have two things to say, George Orwell 1984 and THIS IS REAL SCARY

Not So Casual Observer

March 20th, 2013
2:56 pm

This is a 4th Amendment issue and the idea that opposition to the police position should indicate someone is a “perp” is exactly the reason the police should have no access to any of the information sought. ALL text messages is just that – ALL! Messages absent criminal activity could still be used against an individual who is innocent of any crime.

In 1996 the police decided the identity of the Olympic Park bomber was a security guard, built a case on flimsy, at best, evidence and destroyed the individual’s life. SURPRISE, the security guard was the hero and not the villain.

Can anyone possibly believe this is the only time someone falsely accused was destroyed by law enforcement’s fixation? Of course this happens and only the high profile of the case cleared the accused in the Olympic case but left the public with the impression the guard was guilty.

You polyannas keep ceding your privacy and freedom for safety and eventually this will bite you or a family member.

MoFaux

March 20th, 2013
3:02 pm

There should also be mandatory drug testing for the entire population, daily…otherwise, it’s just plain unfair to the potheads. This would create a lot of business! And…JOBS!!! Yeah, it’s like a tax, but forget that part and just concentrate on the JOBS ok? So, now we can not only get everyones’ text messages, but also lock up millions of people in a pre-emptive strike just for smoking pot or any other drug before they commit other crimes that they are obviously destined to commit. Every pot smoker I’ve ever met has been extremely violent and a scourge to mankind. Except me of course. Freedom isn’t “free” people.

DLink

March 20th, 2013
3:02 pm

The govn’t has been doing this a very long time. When the technology is available, the govn’t will use it.

In 2000 I was in a dingy little server center looking at a macrovirus. On a computer controlling reels on servers recording every conversation. Sooo, Windows 98 back then. I’m sure only the “right” people have access to that information now. /s

Good luck with that. Anything that can be abused for a profit will generally be abused for a profit.

Jbraml

March 20th, 2013
3:07 pm

Let’s have law enforcement make a big deal about the 2nd amendment but ignore the 4th, 5th and 6th.

DJ

March 20th, 2013
3:23 pm

AMENDMENT IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Last Free American

March 20th, 2013
3:33 pm

Anyone ever read “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?” Yes, I realize that this is legislation only to save the data longer, but I have no doubt in my mind that if it passes, the next step the government will take is to make it easier to access. @ A Cop, these aren’t just “our” rights, they’re your rights as well. Stand up and fight for the rights we were given by the great men that started this country. @ Everyone who says “if you have nothing to hide why do you care?” I’ll tell you why, I don’t want anybody, regardless if its the cops or my friends and family, gaining access to private information that was not intended for them to see; unless it has been ordered so by a judge, based on reasonable evidence. I am saddened that some people are so quick to trust the government. This country was founded on the rights of INDIVIDUALS and they are slowly being taken away.

DJ

March 20th, 2013
3:34 pm

I don’t understand how some people are so willing to give up their constitutional rights.
To quote Bushy: “Anyone who doesn’t understand that privacy laws, and constitutional protections are important whether you are a criminal or not, is beyond stupid”

Tinkerella

March 20th, 2013
3:35 pm

About that device in your car……it is already here and will be required by the insurance companies very soon.