Keeping Text Messages for Police
It can also be a powerful tool for law enforcement. But, because some cell phone companies don’t store text message logs, it’s tough for cops to follow that trail of written evidence.
“Even with the new law that prohibits text messaging while you’re driving, it’s pretty hard to enforce,” says Sgt. Dennis Sheehan of the East Longmeadow Police Dept. “And, you know, having that information available would make our job easier.”
Sheehan’s fellow officers agree. In fact, several law enforcement groups have approached Congress for help.
They’re asking lawmakers to implement a new requirement: make cell phone companies keep text message logs for at least two years.
“I see nothing wrong with that,” says Cheryl Trudell of East Longmeadow. “If you have nothing to hide, then why would you worry about it?”
But the proposal raises questions about privacy — will police be able to go through my text messages?
“Currently, any phone records that we want to acquire require a subpoena and we have to request those through the District Attorney’s office,” says Sheehan. “There’s a fee involved and the District Attorney’s office tries to use that judiciously, so that we’re not looking at every little stop sign and speeding violation — we’re looking at serious crimes.”
Right now, most cell phone companies only keep text message logs for a few days, because customers send so many messages each day. They do their best to meet requests from authorities, but according to Forrester Research, Americans send about two trillion text messages a year. And retaining four trillion text messages over two years could prove daunting.