Update to Text Message Law Stirs Rights Debate

By Boren, Jeremy | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 2, 2013 | Go to article overview

Update to Text Message Law Stirs Rights Debate


Boren, Jeremy, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Text messages could dwell for years in digital archives if law enforcement agencies persuade Congress to require cellular service providers to store messages in case they're needed as evidence in criminal investigations.

The Senate is considering the first major update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act since its enactment in 1986, six years before a British engineer used a computer to send the first SMS (short message service) text on Dec. 3, 1992, to wish a colleague "Merry Christmas."

Twenty years later, cellphone users send and receive nearly 2.3 trillion text messages a year, and the nation's 321.7 million wireless subscriptions outnumber its population, according to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.

Privacy advocates contend that allowing police to fish through years of fleeting text messages would expose cellphone users to unreasonable searches prohibited under the Fourth Amendment.

Authorities take a different view.

"Today's electronic communications devices are silent witnesses to the vast majority of crimes," associations representing district attorneys, police chiefs, county sheriffs and others wrote in a letter to Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, and Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking minority member.

Archiving text messages could solve criminal cases and holds "the key to ruling out suspects and exonerating the innocent," the law enforcement groups wrote in a Nov. 28 followup letter. It notes the law does not require service providers to respond swiftly to requests backed by warrants.

"From the civil liberties perspective, it's somewhat horrifying that we have this ephemeral communication channel that law enforcement is saying we should start storing," said Lorrie Cranor, a Carnegie Mellon University computer science and public policy professor and director of the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory.

Cranor said establishing a repository of text messages would add to the trend of building snooping capabilities into a telecommunications system created for communication, not surveillance. "Going after text messages seems to be the next logical step," she said.

Most major cell service providers log details about text messages -- such as when and from where they were sent -- for at least a year, but generally they do not retain message content, according to a Department of Justice report.

Verizon keeps message content for three to five days; Virgin Mobile, which is owned by Sprint, retains it for 90 days, according to the August 2010 report. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Update to Text Message Law Stirs Rights Debate
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.