Police want text messages saved for 2 years - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Police want text messages saved for 2 years

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Local police departments across the nation are pushing Congress to pass a law requiring cell phone carriers to hold on to text messages of customers for two years.

Think about all the conversations you've had via text.

"I think I'm a little concerned," said Austin resident, Austin Ries.

Police want access to them, for up to two years.

"It doesn't really bother me that much," said Austin resident, Sarah Biasello.

"I'm not very excited about it," said Ries.

The law would require cell phone companies to keep text information for two years, but did you know some already hold onto the information.

A Wired Magazine shows AT&T and T-mobile discard customer messages immediately.

Verizon keeps them for five days. Sprint holds on to messages for 12 days.

"I think it is a little alarming that they can have access to our text messages for that long," said Ries.

"We oughtta resist that and we should let our congressfolks, our senators know that that's a gross intrusion of our privacy," said Jim Harrington, a human rights attorney and founder of the Texas Civil Rghts Project.

"Last year, the Federal Government read 1.5 million emails, without a warrant, of private citizens," Harrington said. "Every time the government intrudes on our privacy right, it opens the door a little bit more and a little bit more and a little bit more and then someday we'll wake up and we won't have any privacy."

"If you're not doing something wrong and you're not committing a crime, it could actually act as a tool in your defense," said Charley Wilkison, with the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.

"Law abiding citizens can think of it as an alibi," said Wilkison.

An independent mobile analyst report shows, on average, every cell phone user sends 678 text messages a month.

"In this internet world that we live in now, the access that the police have is amazing and it's quiet," Harrington said. "Quiet in the sense that we don't feel it, hear it, see it.

"If they were to say to people, we want to have the right to go into your house for two years and search your house, we wouldn't put up with that. In the United States of America, we balance all our rights against our safety, so the police simply look at it as they're trying to protect us and trying to solve crime."

Until Congress decides how much access to give to police, you might want to think twice before sending that text, just to be safe.

"That actually was my first initial thought," said Biasello. "I'm just hoping that nobody will be looking at my cell phone records personally."

Money is also an issue with holding records for two years. An online security expert says if the law were to pass, it will cost cell phone companies more money and usually that means passing the cost on to us, the consumer.

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