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

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

  • 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.

  • 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?

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

    by Minwee ( 522556 ) <> 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 [], and ran into some trouble with the Supreme Court, the Fourth Ammendment, and a planet full of Ewoks [] 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.

  • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheCarp ( 96830 ) < minus pi> 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 TheCarp ( 96830 ) < minus pi> 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?

  • Re:Catch 22: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:17PM (#42183693)

    Very true, but it means that there has to be active work done instead of just a cronjob of a bunch of greps that spit out results.

    Every time a proposal like this hits, it just escalates the arms race:

    IP addresses get logged, the crooks move to proxies. Said proxies get raided, they moved to offshore ones in countries that are at best indifferent to US demands.

    P2P swarms get recorded, so people just find a fast proxy across the pond.

    If text messages get recorded, there are a lot of smartphone apps for Android, iOS and the other big names.

    Don't forget businesses... they will end up getting pushed to Silent Circle, or some type of encrypted network as well.

    End result: With demanding more and more logkeeping by ISPs, it just means that the logs will be worthless as people reach for encryption programs.

  • Re:Catch 22: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:21PM (#42183745) Homepage

    Why encrypt data if you do to care if the government knows it?

    Or you actually believe that the FBI could not know everything about you if they wanted to?
    Encryption does no good if you control the sender/receiver, or built a back-door into the encryptor/phone to begin with.

  • Re:Catch 22: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:31PM (#42183899) Homepage Journal

    I was investigated repeatedly by the NSA and they couldn't produce more than half a sheet of paper about me. They got a 20 page thick tome when they were done, made up entirely of things I admitted to under polygraph, and denied my clearance. 80% of my life was unaccountable to them. It frightened the shit out of them.

    I don't go to any great lengths to hide. I'm just highly compartmentalized, enough that few people know much about me at all, and there's not a lot of pieces to put together. People who grew up with me can't ascribe anything more to me than face-value. Where does he go? What are his hobbies? Oh... I dunno, we just went to high school together for four years, never seen him outside school, never talked about his home life or family ... he seems good at computers, I think one day he'll be Bill Gates..

    Absolutely nothing on me. Not like... no criminal history, no dirt... but nothing. I look like a constructed identity. A really obvious constructed identity. Problem is they're looking at my real identity and I have no actual background; records for school, medical records--which barely fit on half a page--and a few people who recognize my name but know nothing about me and have no alibi for where I've been ever.

  • by Sparticus789 ( 2625955 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:35PM (#42183957) Journal

    And suddenly, 50% of the nation's police force is behind bars for assault, bribery, extortion, racketeering, corruption, domestic violence, solicitation..... you get the idea.

  • Re:Catch 22: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hartree ( 191324 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @08:22PM (#42186609)

    That's the whole point. I pointed out in a talk once that the unencrypted email we used (this was in the 90s) was like sending everything written on a postcard. Encrypted email, was more like sending it in an envelope (yes I know an envelope or insecure encryption can be bypassed easily but it stops casual inspection).

    We'd think someone a bit odd if they insisted that all mail to and from them, even love letters, bills, and financial statements had to be sent as postcards rather than in an envelope.

    And yet, many at the time thought it odd that anyone would go to the trouble of encrypting email unless they had some deep dark secret to hide.

    The history of email was such that we trained ourselves to not use the equivalent of envelopes.

    Because of that, encrypting common messages that aren't among accepted sensitive categories seems odd. In truth, it would be better to have encryption be by default and unencrypted be the oddity. That way truly sensitive information wouldn't be flagged as interesting because they were encrypted.

  • Re:Catch 22: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EdIII ( 1114411 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @02:04AM (#42188807)

    My favorite is the posts about how you create a hidden subdirectory with files that have child porn names like, "9yr_old_girl_first_time_anal". The FBI has to view the file, only to find a video with a 10 hour long loop of some hilarious shit like He-Man Master of the Universe in the gayest music video ever.

    Of course, the real joke being the policy that the FBI has to actually inspect all 10 hours of a footage, lest some clever pedophile hide the video 2/3rds of the way in, interlaced in the frames like something from the movie Contact.

    I figure wasting a TB on nested TrueCrypt containers, all with stuff of that nature, plus inane bullshit like cook books, could keep the FBI busy for months on end.... even if they got the keys from me.

    Then of course I realize, the joke would also be on us. The FBI would go to the Senate and demand 50 billion dollars to increase their task force and processing power to actually comply with something so fucking ridiculous. We would pay for the joke in our taxes. It's not like they would learn anything, or get a clue right?

"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev