Law Enforcement Groups Want Text Messages Stored


A person types a text on a phone (file photo)

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-Police want to be able to keep tabs on your text messages, but is it a case of “Big Brother” going too far?

A coalition of law enforcement groups from across the country are lobbying Congress for a rule change that would require cell phone companies to store text messages for all U.S. customers. The providers would be mandated to keep the messages on archive for up to two years in what would be a major expansion of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

The National Sheriffs Association and Major City Police Chiefs are among the law enforcement groups asking Congress for approval. Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder is one of several local law enforcement officers who say that text message storage would help in solving crime. Blackwelder said having a database to pull records from for both criminals and victims would improve criminal investigations.

“I think it would be beneficial to everyone,” said Blackwelder. “If it was your loved one we were looking for, would you want us to have their text messages if you thought it would help us find them? Of course you would.”

Law enforcement agencies would still be required to get a court order for every individual record request if the proposal becomes law. But privacy groups say it’s a case of the authorities going too far.

“I think that is government overstepping its bounds,” said cell phone user Jennifer Whaley, who opposes the change. “Anytime you start infringing on peoples’ rights and you’re able to get away with it, it won’t be long until the next thing its alright to do either.”

More than two trillion text messages were sent in the United States last year, an average of six billion every day. Privacy groups said cell phone companies would likely pass the cost of storing all those text messages on to customers.

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