General Question

Hobbes's avatar

Are text messages stored by the phone company?

Asked by Hobbes (7309 points ) October 11th, 2010

Are the text messages I send and receive stored anywhere other than my phone? Are they on a database somewhere? If so, who would be able to read them?

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18 Answers

Axemusica's avatar

Yes, in fact you’re entitled to copies of them if you would like. So I’m told….

Lightlyseared's avatar

The phone company keeps a copy on it’s server so that it can resend the message if the mobile is switched off or out of range. I’ve no idea how long it keeps the mesages but given that there were over 4 trillion texts sent in 2008 alone I doubt they keep them for that long.

marinelife's avatar

Yes, and the police can get a warrant for them if you are suspected of a crime, and there is evidence.

Hobbes's avatar

Can they view the content of the messages? Or just the date and time? Viewing content seems like quite a breach of privacy to me.

Vortico's avatar

@Lightlyseared Considering the average text message can probably be compressed to less than 100 bytes, the phone companies could easily store the messages in a small server room. Also, not one company stores all the texts.

janbb's avatar

@Hobbes I’m pretty sure the content can be viewed since a lot of terrorist activity is communicated by text.

zenvelo's avatar

I am not a lawyer. A prudent consumer should not have ANY expectation of privacy with any electronic communication, whether text, email, or IM. You’re going through one or two third parties (your wireless companies).

meiosis's avatar

Not only are they stored, the security services could already have scanned them for ‘flaggable’ content, especially if you are of interest to them, using the Echelon system

Hobbes's avatar

@janbb – Just another reason why the Patriot Act allows for some sickening breaches of personal privacy.

@meiosis – As terrifying as that is, it doesn’t actually mention text messages. It says “Every international telephone call, fax, e-mail, or radio transmission can be listened to by powerful computers capable of voice recognition.”

@Vortico – But considering the sheer volume of texts which have been sent since texting became prevalent, could the providers really be storing every text indefinitely?

janbb's avatar

@Hobbes I don’t disagree with you at all.

meiosis's avatar

@Hobbes I don’t think it’s too much of a leap to assume that they’ll monitor texts, twitter, Facebook etc. as well

Hobbes's avatar

Well, the article said they were monitoring satellites, not the internet.

marinelife's avatar

Yes, they can store and recall the content of your text messages.

nailpolishfanatic's avatar

Holy shit! They do???!!!
What about people who are always sexting? – The phone company reads those msgs?

Vortico's avatar

@Thesexier They don’t read them. They just store them for later if a legal case comes up. Then they read them.

meiosis's avatar

@Hobbes The article was written in 1999. Given the massive expansion in internet and mobile communication since then, it’s simply inconceivable that they’re not monitoring these as well. I know they would if I were in charge.

Zaku's avatar

Ya, so don’t be suspected of any crime, or all your private messages will be read in the interest of justice. LOL what a pathetic society.

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