In an Orwellian fashion, law enforcement groups have called for Congress to mandate all SMS messages be recorded and kept on file by wireless companies. This would be one of the editions to the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, currently under review by Congress.
The law enforcement proposal would require wireless providers to record and store customers' SMS messages -- a controversial idea akin to requiring them to surreptitiously record audio of their customers' phone calls -- in case police decide to obtain them at some point in the future. "Billions of texts are sent every day, and some surely contain key evidence about criminal activity," Richard Littlehale from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will tell Congress, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. "In some cases, this means that critical evidence is lost. Text messaging often plays a big role in investigations related to domestic violence, stalking, menacing, drug trafficking, and weapons trafficking."
For champions of personal privacy, it looks as if there are few allies in Washington.
CNET reported yesterday that the Justice Department is proposing that any ECPA changes expand government surveillance powers over e-mail messages, Twitter direct messages, and Facebook direct messages in some ways, while limiting it in others. A Google representative is also testifying.