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Cops To Congress: We Need Logs of Americans' Text Messages 342

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
Dainsanefh tips a CNET report about a number of law enforcement groups who have put forth a proposal to the U.S. Senate to require wireless providers to keep logs of subscriber text messages for a minimum of two years. "As the popularity of text messages has exploded in recent years, so has their use in criminal investigations and civil lawsuits. They have been introduced as evidence in armed robbery, cocaine distribution, and wire fraud prosecutions. In one 2009 case in Michigan, wireless provider SkyTel turned over the contents of 626,638 SMS messages, a figure described by a federal judge as 'staggering.' Chuck DeWitt, a spokesman for the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, which represents the 63 largest U.S. police forces including New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago, said 'all such records should be retained for two years.' Some providers, like Verizon, retain the contents of SMS messages for a brief period of time, while others like T-Mobile do not store them at all. Along with the police association, other law enforcement groups making the request to the Senate include the National District Attorneys' Association, the National Sheriffs' Association, and the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, DeWitt said."
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Cops To Congress: We Need Logs of Americans' Text Messages

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  • Americans to cops: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jaymz666 (34050) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:44PM (#42183161)

    We'll start using encrypted apps instead of SMS

    • by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:46PM (#42183193)
      No we wont. We may SAY we will, but we cant be bothered.
      • by jaymz666 (34050)

        It all depends on the incentive.

      • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:12PM (#42183601)
        I won't even say I will. If I have something super secret to say, I'll do it face to face or find something more secure than texts.

        Still not a fucking reason to give up an ounce of privacy. Crime is low. I don't see any evidence that the police can't manage to keep order without reading our SMS messages from the past two years.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:51PM (#42183281)

      I really am not interested in training my drug dealer how to use encryption.

      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        "I really am not interested in training my drug dealer how to use encryption."

        Just text him: I have a fever and the only prescription is more cowbells.
        He'll know what you mean.

    • Cops if they are doing their job, they would like to have more information. However I hope congress is working for the Americans and realize our justice system was designed to favor the innocent, Law enforcement cannot be an easy or an efficient job, even though they will be able to catch more bad guys and probably save a lot of lives. American Liberty is the greater good over safety.

    • Unlikely. See: number of people who stopped bothering with PGP because they wanted to use GMail to check their mail from wherever.
      • by Githaron (2462596)
        Those people are probably not dealing drugs.
        • Correct.

          They are commuting stock/bank fraud.

          • by lennier (44736)

            They are commuting stock/bank fraud.

            To a lesser sentence while driving to work? Judges are getting really lazy these days.

          • by Githaron (2462596)
            Then they are idiots. If you are going to do something sensitive and/or illegal, why would you do it over a very insecure median when you can use alternatives that are fairly secure.
            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              Because easy trumps secure any day of the week? How many times have we seen "Laptop with tons of unencrypted sensitive information lost"? It doesn't matter if its crooks or credit card companies, easy will ALWAYS come before secure, all it takes is one lazy guy in the org and you're boned.

              I mean you think that it'd be obvious when for the fiftieth time you'd see those corporate emails where you'd have some PHB talking about shit that really really REALLY shouldn't have been written down, much less put int

      • i use PGP with gmail, i write my emails on thunderbird sign encrypt, thunderbird has via pop access to gmail so i'm good.

    • by Githaron (2462596)
      Or simply a SMS client that encrypts the characters before sending the SMS.
    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      If it was that easy the police wouldn't have been able to wiretap anything once skype came out (until the MS takeover and it is presumably now wire-tappable).

      The phone system isn't secure, from the government or hackers, but people still use it for all sorts of business. People who know full well their technology can be tapped and tracked still use it for criminal purposes, because most people, criminals included, are stupid.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:45PM (#42183175)

    No.

  • No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:49PM (#42183243)

    These messages shouldn't be archived. If the police need to see the communications, they should be required to get a warrent, and only be able to intercept communications as their happening - as would happen with a wiretap.

    Law enforcement should not be able to go back through prior communications that occurred before they got a warrant.

    • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jeng (926980) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:00PM (#42183413)

      The police normally only investigate crimes after they have already happened so they need to get evidence from the time period that the crime happened in.

      I agree with you that they should need to get a warrant, much like they have to to get your phone records, but I think that they should be allowed to get text messages that are less than one month old, but beyond one month they should only get a notice that a text happened, but not the actual message.

      • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@carpane[ ]et ['t.n' in gap]> on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:07PM (#42183531) Homepage

        Do you think they should be able to get the audio of any phone conversation up to a month old? Why should one kind of data be retained, for no other reason than its easy and cheap to retain, but not another?

        Why should text recieve, in any way, less protection than audio, other than due to a side effect of the technical details of how it is implemented?

        • by Jeng (926980)

          Do you think they should be able to get the audio of any phone conversation up to a month old?

          If that was information that was normally stored in the course of business, then yes, but there should be no special provisions asking the phone companies to start storing that information.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Nialin (570647)
          Your phone doesn't record and retain your voice calls, if it did, you bet your sweet ass they'd be going after a more lengthy history of voice communiques.

          It's default that most phones save messages, and because it's convenient for a large majority of users. Due to this, phones record innumerable amounts of texts; smartphones especially.

          Change how the phone works, and you change the expectation of content delivery, archival, and investigation.
      • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

        by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:18PM (#42183711)

        The problem isn't granting them access with a warrant. The problem is that they are trying to induce storage for no other reason than to maintain a POTENTIAL evidence database.

        Why should there be a requirement to maintain these messages? Should there be a requirement to make a copy of every letter that passes through the post office and maintain it for x months? Of course not, because such a copy isn't necessary to transmit the letter.

        I hate that people treat the default for all Rights these days in the manner of: None, unless proven otherwise.

        • by Jeng (926980)

          I agree they should be able to get the information if they have a warrant, but that the companies should not be forced to store the information.

          Basically I'm not looking to put stupid barriers in the way of a criminal investigation, but not looking for this to become a police state.

      • Have you not seen Minority Report?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:49PM (#42183245)

    Does the USPS need to scan all letters? Do cell conversations need to be recorded and stored? Do emails need to be retained by the host?

    Is this April 1st?

    • To play devil's advocate, no, the USPS does not, but most drug dealers aren't using snail-mail to coordinate while they are using texts. And scanning every letter would cost the taxpayer much more than storing texts would. Cell phones would also cost a lot.

      That's the realistic answer to why they don't. It's stupid, because of course taxpayer money should not be a concern compared to our civil liberties.
      • by gatfirls (1315141)
        You're right they don't use the USPS for communication, they use it to actually ship drugs. This really is no different than them wanting the phone companies to record every conversation you have....ya know, just in case.
  • This is in violation of the US Constitution and they can be considered showing intent to violate it. They should lose their jobs as clearly they are not acting in accord to the public they are supposed to serve, Neither are the politicians who will likely pass it.

    • They may obtain said text messages with a warrant obtained legally.

      This is how we do things in America. We are not a police-state. We are not a military-state.

      Deal with it.

      • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@carpane[ ]et ['t.n' in gap]> on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:12PM (#42183595) Homepage

        And yet, you are totally missing the point. Its not a question of whether they should be able to obtain the messages, legally, with a warrant (which, incidentally, they currently don't actually need as far as I know). Thats totally off topic, if its there, of course they can get at it with cause.

        The question is, why should it be retained. Why should the phone company be REQUIRED to store data, from everyone, all the time, based on their assertion that they might need to request it later?

        My phone calls are not recorded, why should they not also be required to retain the audio of the calls? Why, other than current details of old laws, should the two types of personal data, be in in any way, treated differently?

      • Ah... The good old days.

        Today:
        At the border: Papers Please!

        Walking down the road: Papers Please!
        http://papersplease.org/hiibel/case.html [papersplease.org]

      • by JohnFen (1641097)

        They may obtain said text messages with a warrant obtained legally.

        Irrelevant to the problem.

        This is how we do things in America. We are not a police-state. We are not a military-state.

        To the extent that true (and it's less true every year), it's because we citizens stand up against efforts like this one.

  • Wife to self: "Hun, buy some sugar before you come home"
    Cops to self: "This is obviously code for methyl-p"
    Self to cops: "No it's not - she's making some icing for a carrot cake"
    Cops to self: "Ho ho, merry christmas and save me a slice"

    Code need not be complex.
  • Gives me extra comfort in switching to t-mobile like I am currently planning to do.

    By the way, anybody in the Phoenix area (east valley especially) care to comment on the quality of service t-mobile offers here? I like how cheap their plans are, and Sprint has very well pissed me off lately so I'm in the process of ditching them.

    • I like how cheap their plans are, and Sprint has very well pissed me off lately so I'm in the process of ditching them.

      A girl sent me a 950KB picture yesterday that took my phone 18 minutes to download. The Sprint network in Phoenix blows. I'm not sure how to find the article now, but I seem to remember a survey from a couple years ago which claimed that Verizon had the best network in Phoenix. That may have changed though. All I know is that Sprint can't be bothered to put 4G service here, even though I have a 4G Sprint phone that's 2 and a half years old.

      • I like how cheap their plans are, and Sprint has very well pissed me off lately so I'm in the process of ditching them.

        A girl sent me a 950KB picture yesterday that took my phone 18 minutes to download. The Sprint network in Phoenix blows. I'm not sure how to find the article now, but I seem to remember a survey from a couple years ago which claimed that Verizon had the best network in Phoenix. That may have changed though. All I know is that Sprint can't be bothered to put 4G service here, even though I have a 4G Sprint phone that's 2 and a half years old.

        Of course, the question on all our minds:

        How'd her boobs look?

  • Yes, because communication companies can always be trusted to secure their user's data. Ignore those black-suit guys with the sunglasses and the CIA/FBI/NSA badges working in the Farraday cage room with biometric security, they are NOT streaming your text messages to Langley/DC/Fort Meade for analysis. There are not Exabytes of storage capabilities at said facilities in order to "protect national security".

    Nothing to see here folks. /sarcasm

  • Why stop there? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:02PM (#42183445) Homepage

    How about complete audio recordings of all phone calls, and copies of every piece of mail delivered?

    Or did you try that before [wikipedia.org], and ran into some trouble with the Supreme Court, the Fourth Ammendment, and a planet full of Ewoks [wikipedia.org] over forty years ago?

  • by Trailer Trash (60756) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:03PM (#42183453) Homepage

    Why not require cops to put video/audio recorders in all their cars and require them to keep the tapes for 2 years. Make any missing tape a felony so that the incentive to "lose" them disappears. That would do more to make our country a better place than keeping SMS messages.

  • The hell they do.

    Texts need to be treated the same as verbal communications. Law enforcement needs to acquire permission to wire tap a persons phone ahead of time. Then, and only then should the texts be logged or stored. Or should the phone companies be expected to keep a recording of all conversations over their networks for two years also?

  • So, basically they are saying something like this:

    "But you want us to stop those dirty, nasty people that want to sell your little angel a bag of crack, and who want nothing more than to destroy our way of life, right? Well, in order to do that any better than we alread are, because those people are adapting to the changing flow of technology, we will have to have access to those mediums!"

    We should reply in kind:

    "Text messages should be intercepted live, and not recorded in advance. Your convenience is not

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Of course, that isn't how this will pan out. My cynical nature screams at me that the police will kick their feet, balk, whine, and throw a PR hissyfit with the press about those mean, dirty people with their dirty secrets wanting to hurt innocent people and children in order to protect themselves from justice, by supressing the motion.

      You're less cynical than I am. I think that the conversation will go something like this:
      Police: We think we should trap all text messages.
      Congress: Can we use this to spy on Occupy protesters, right-wing protesters, and anyone else we find politically inconvenient?
      Police: Sure, no problemo.
      Congress: Ok, passed unanimously with no debate.

  • What exactly is the legal difference between this and demanding that all conversations be recorded and available for police perusal. I am not only talking about phone conversations but making it mandatory to have an app running on our smart phones recording everything and transmitting it to a police server. Is somehow text exempt from the 4th amendment.

    The police seem to think that they have some magical right to eat away at our rights in order to do their jobs. Well what about an appliance salesman, shou
  • by RichMan (8097) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:13PM (#42183611)

    I would help the cops more if the microphone was always on a complete recording of everything in ear shot of the phone was kept in storage for when it was needed. Seems silly, just wait for bandwidth and storage costs to drop a little more.

    Whose phone is it? Who is paying for the service? Why does my phone have to serve the usage of the police? Why can't it do what I want, send and receive messages with no record?
    Why is there the assumption that because it can be done it must be done? ((... "for the sake of the children"...))

    Why can't we have devices that serve the user?

  • by DodgeRules (854165) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:15PM (#42183647)

    I have no problem with the carriers having 1 year retention of SMS messages if law enforcement have no problem with getting a court ordered warrant before they can access them. The warrant needs to be narrowed to a particular phone number and for a specific date/time range and not a blanket "everything in this zip code during the month of July".

    More than 1 year retention required by Law enforcement and they aren't doing their jobs properly. And sorry Columbo, no peeking without probable cause.

  • All it would take is one android/ios app to read/send encrypted SMS messages and this would be defeated. Of course the cops would then try to extract your keys but that couldn't happen near as easy.

  • Libraries Too (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheAngryMob (49125) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:22PM (#42183767) Homepage

    I like the fact that my library (and most others) destroy records of checkouts after you return a book so that the information can't be used in an investigation or trial.

    Just because I read some Karl Marx, doesn't make me a commie. Likewise, just because I texted a quote from the Koran doesn't make me a terrorist.

  • How did police ever solve crimes when analog technology didn't record every utterance of every person on the planet? Police also support the imposition of a police state with enhanced powers of abuse for police. Not everything the police want is good for society.
  • ...GET A FUCKING WARRANT FIRST!

    And, no, a 'security letter request' or whatever else they are calling it these days it not acceptable. If you think you have need of text logs for an investigation, go through the proper channels.

  • If you are interested in seeing what is currently being done:

    http://www.aclu.org/cell-phone-location-tracking-request-response-cell-phone-company-data-retention-chart [aclu.org]

    and

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/09/cellular-customer-data/ [wired.com]

    I understand what the cops are getting at, creating a standard they can use. However they tried something like this on ISP up here and Canada, and there was a bit of row to say the least. Cops it seems in general will constantaly ask for more and more powers in order to basicall

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