Cops to Congress: We need logs of Americans’ text messages | Politics and Law – CNET News

AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and other wireless providers would be required to record and store information about Americans’ private text messages for at least two years, according to a proposal that police have submitted to the U.S. Congress.

CNET has learned 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.”

They want an SMS retention requirement to be “considered” during congressional discussions over updating a 1986 privacy law for the cloud computing era — a move that could complicate debate over the measure and erode support for it among civil libertarians.

via Cops to Congress: We need logs of Americans’ text messages | Politics and Law – CNET News.


22 thoughts on “Cops to Congress: We need logs of Americans’ text messages | Politics and Law – CNET News

  1. It would seem that for every step we take in the right direction, we take two steps in the other. In my opinion, they won’t be able to stop private messaging for smart phones because someone can just develop an application that will encrypt and send the messages. Better still, someone can just download a messaging client like google talk, and communicate “off the record”, which is a mode that doesn’t log anything that is said. If you think about how many people send messages every day, you will need a lot of man power to search through every message. From the article it said something along the lines of 6 billion messages were sent every day in the past year. Good luck with that.

  2. I agree with the comment above, that people communicate easily outside of SMS on mobile devices, but the issue is now raised that we discussed in class, that you should care about privacy, even if you have nothing to hide. This request from the cops to the US Congress invades our right to privacy as American’s. We should not allow this to happen and stand up for our rights. If this proposal passed, it would have a panoptic effect on people, where we wouldn’t know when or if we are being watched, but that it is always possible. People would find other methods to use to communicate, and the cops would not end up getting information that they hope to find in SMS.

  3. I think this will definitely deter the public from using the carrier’s SMS clients. There are already applications that allow for text messaging over people’s phones that is free to use. There was an interesting article I read recently that talked about how phone companies are already losing billions to apps that allow users to text other people’s phones without paying a dime. Something like this would only cause even more users to shy away from SMS even more. With corporations playing large parts in lobbying to pass legislature, I don’t know if something like this probable, and this doesn’t even touch on the privacy issue which almost everyone will have an issue with. You’re using a service, so the providers do have some say in what happens with your messages, but I don’t think they’d want to spend money on servers and man power to store messages for up to 2 years.

  4. I find it very scary to think that this idea is even being entertained by police and congress. This is a violation of our privacy, to allow companies to store every text we send even if we have never committed a crime and never plan on doing anything illegal is ridiculous. This is also a complete waste of resources police need to spend time actually preventing crimes in reasonable ways instead of something like this which is a complete slap in the face to our freedom of speech and privacy .This should never be allowed to happen the government might as well have phone taps on every Americans phone and start listening to everybodys conversations.

  5. I think this is becoming a more relevant issue every year due to the violation of privacy. Also our generation has a hard time forgetting data and this can have very demeaning effects on people. What will or does the government due or need our text messages for. I understand this could help with the terrorists hunt they are on, but it seems to be an invasion of privacy to me. This reminds me of one of the articles we read earlier in the semester and how we did know what our stored data could be used for. It may end up on the web someday (secondary use). I also came across another article ( that mentioned that this is not the only thing that the cell companies are storing either. It appears they store:
    All of the mobile phone companies keep details about the location of cell towers used by every phone, for a year or longer.
    All of the mobile phone companies keep records about voice calls and text messages received and sent for a year or longer. Verizon stores the contents of every text message for three to five days. (The others don’t keep the text.)
    IP session information — tying your phone to an IP address — is kept for a year by Verizon and 60 days on Sprint and Nextel.
    IP destination information — which IP addresses you connected to — is stored for 90 days at Verizon and 60 days on Sprint and Nextel.
    This makes me wonder how much of a panopticon are the cell companies now creating for society?

  6. This is just another example of how our privacy is being invaded with technology. It seems like everything we do now is somehow being tracked or watched. Whether through data mining by Google, Facebook, etc, and now with the possibility of being watched through our text messages. I agree with above statements that state this is a large waste of manpower. Looking and searching through logs of text messages could be a huge undertaking and quite frankly a waste of time as well. I would rather they find other ways that can help protect the people than read through our private text messages. The use of 3rd party apps that can be used for texting would increase a lot if this were put into affect, causing trouble monetarily to the cell phone companies. In my opinion it is a waste of time and energy to try to make this happen, as well as a huge invasion on our privacy.

  7. In agreement with the above comments, I really don’t think this is a good use of resources. Sure, this might help law enforcement with those extreme cases of text messaging being the only form of evidence in a case. But when will the government actually put a lid on what types of data can be tracked, and what regulations to be put in place? This needs to be done sooner rather than later due to the increasing amounts of data that can be tracked. I agree that people will just develop 3rd party encrypted messaging just to get around this, and it’s just going to cause more of a headache for users.

  8. Although some of the commentors believe if this policy was enacted it would be an invasion of privacy I don’t completely agree with that view. I think as long as the only way the police can get the text messages is with a warrant then I don’t really have a huge problem with the law. I think keeping text messages for two years may be too long though just because of the huge amount of text messages, if you kept them for two years you would need a lot of data storage space to keep all those messages for that long, which could increase the cost for service providers and in turn increase cost for consumers, which I am against. I would not really have a problem with my text messages being saved If companies could ensure that my messages will be completely secure or at least as secure as data can be in this day and age. I think it is important for justice to be served correctly and I think old text messages could make sure guilty people get caught and innocent people stay innocent. But I don’t think companies should keep the logs for two years maybe just 6 months to keep costs lower. Also their should be very strict rules about how the text messages need to be secured and very strict rules that law enforcement can only see the text messages with a warrant.

  9. I agree with the position taken in the above statements. I also acknowledge that there are alternative routes that individuals can take to achieve security and privacy in their correspondence with other individuals. I found that the analysis of this policy providing a panoptic gaze particularly revealing. Although there are undoubtedly crimes that could be solved with the freedom of police to access text messages through the service providers, the lasting result of this policy would be a chilling effect that would cause citizen to shy away from suspicious behavior in fear of the potential repercussions. Police at the moment can be given the privilege of viewing citizen’s text messages if they have reasonable cause. It is my opinion that although the situations that allow police to access a citizen data will evolve to counter crime and the systems that criminals activity utilize, they should not have the authority to readily pull a citizen’s SMS messages without having substantial evidence of criminal activity.

  10. Aside from the obvious issue of the invasion of privacy, why put the burden of keeping massive amount of text messages for up to two years on wireless providers? I have a difficult time seeing what vital information could be gleaned from a text message up to 24 months after the fact that would justify creating such a gigantic pool of mostly benign text messages? As Brad says in the above comment, police already have access to text messages if they have probable cause, so why is it necessary for service providers to amass such a large collection of messages, when they have no reasonable expectation of having to present a block of text messages incriminating an individual? This seems to be a waste of time, energy, and resources, of both the human labor kind and of the infrastructure kind. It is difficult to fathom the kind of “incriminating” evidence law enforcement officials would be mining for among the text message archives, but this seems like an abuse of power by the police departments throughout the United States.

  11. Personally I do not see this as a violation of our rights in any way they are not looking through the text messages unless they find a reason to. Keeping these messages for 2 years is however a huge pain for the Phone providers. As long as these messages are not accessed without probable cause or a warrant I am ok with it. I would have an issue if they were just fishing through them all all the time looking for specific messages.

  12. I think we absolutely need legislation protecting our private communications. Email, text messages, instant message are no different than snail mail in this respect. I also wonder what effect this will have on innovation in the communication areas. For instance, will the Snap-chat app be required to retain logs of all images sent via there service?

  13. I don’t believe that this is an issue that citizens of America should be worried about. For most of us, they will never have reason to open our private messages and all it can do is help us clear the streets of trouble faster. Although i do agree with vindicator when he says that this is going to be a hassle for cell phone companies, and i would be hard pressed to say that this would be more of a benefit then a hindrance to cell phone providers

  14. I see both the positive sides and the negative sides to this. I do not like the idea that anyone can just read my text messages. Even though it is to remain private and only recovered for lawful reasons, there are times where hackers are able to break through the “secure connection” and my private records are now available to the public. I just have a serious problem with my privacy being violated in such a way. Though this could be a great way to catch criminals and use it as evidence in a case, this is just an opening of people to now find new ways to get around this. For example someone can easily find a free application that allows users to text each other without having their information being saved, so this “solution” will only be one for so long.

  15. Well for Apple to Apple users, iMessages are entirely encrypted so that data is pretty much safe for iPhone users, I feel that more than likely the government is going to discard almost all of the data that is stored and that the data that they will require is going to be directly pulled from wherever they find a national threat. Obviously there are some ethical concerns involved here and I honestly can’t say that I wouldn’t expect them, but I don’t believe that will be targeting a general form of what people are saying but probably targeting the text messages of people that are potentially dangerous and have a dangerous background that would possibly be a threat.

  16. After reading the article I have to agree with most of the other comments posted in response to this article. Clearly there are good and bad sides to the possibilities of this, but I think that there are clearly ethical issues regarding privacy with forcing companies to store this information for 2 years. The good side would be that it could help solve potential police cases for all sorts of different cases, but there are many more negatives with this. First I see this as an invasion of privacy to store text message data, and even if there are very strict restrictions and a process that the police would have to go through to see the texts I still do not think it is right for them to be able to read through private data. Second this is a hassle on the mobile providers with forcing them to save the data for 2 years and having to implement a system to determine if the situation is “an emergency” or if they are going to force the law enforcement to “submit a lawful request to receive the data.” Regardless, like many others have said there are clear ways around this with the use of different apps to send even more private texts that wouldn’t be stored.

  17. I think that this relates in many ways to the nothing to hide so why should i care article. After reading this article I admit i first thought that “i have nothing to hide so i don’t really care” but then i thought about it some more and I think that i feel that this is borderline and invasion of privacy to me. I feel like texting is the same as say a phone call or even talking to someone in person. It is a personal conversation. I do not believe that any messages should be stored for this reason. I believe that if cops want to track what you are saying on your phone to other people they should have to get something like a wire tap for phones but only after they are proper permission from the correct place. I don’t think that keeping messages stored anywhere is a moral thing to do, but if you DO keep messages i believe that the storage place needs to have proper security to ensure that no unauthenticated people could gain access. So all in all, i think its wrong to store messages, even for law enforcement officials to use.

  18. This raises the big topic we discussed in class that you should care about privacy even if you have nothing to hide. Keeping track of personal text messages from people is a complete invasion of privacy. People who claim that they have nothing to hide still want a degree of privacy I am sure. From a personal stand point, I have nothing to hide on legal or illegal matter, but I still prefer my privacy including my text messages. Their have been many applications developed to replace text messages. Anyone can just use those applications instead of text messaging, so that their messages are not stored as data for the government. I understand the government looks for certain evidence from phone calls and now text messages, but I just still think it is an invasion of privacy. People with nothing to hide should still be aware that text messages of theirs could potentially be stored as data.

  19. I dont see a huge issue with companies maintaining phone text messages. With the way smart phones are now, you can delete content from a computer remotely so officers cannot always simply look themselves. Also, phones can be lost or destroyed. Already with a warrant police can track smart phones to their location, often finding suspects in crimes. This is a very valuable tool in the modern age for law enforcement and would only be used in conjunction with a warrant. If someone has gone missing, would it also not be nice to be able to always check phone logs to see who they had last spoke with?

    Here is an interesting article, slightly off topic, to the topic.

  20. I believe this as a huge attack against my rights to privacy. I consider text messages to be an extremely private mannor, comparable to phone conversations. The way that our generation uses technology, text messaging may even be more private than phone conversations. As a large amount of us prefer to use texting rather than talking on the phone. I could see the benefit of doing this for tracking down criminals but I don’t that these companies should be obligated to hold on to this information for this amount of time. It seems to me that cops are attempting to take advantage of technological advances.

  21. I agree with James. I believe that text messages should be accessible if a warrant is issued, but i think that requiring phone companies to hold text conversations in storage for a set amount of time is going to far. As technology evolves, so must the law.

  22. I definitely think that if this happens, people will find ways to circumvent it through third party apps. But it makes me wonder how those people (I’ll probably be one of them)are going to feel. They’re basically being forced to act like they have something to hide simply because they believe in maintaining some degree of privacy. That doesn’t seem like an unreasonable belief to me.

    I’m also concerned about about the massive amounts of data that would have to be stored for this to be possible. We know that data centers aren’t the most eco-friendly places, but it seems like we would need a lot more of them (of course costing more money as well) for this to be implemented.

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