Several national associations that also represent Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and the North Carolina SBI want federal lawmakers to consider making wireless carriers store detailed information from your text messages for two years, in case it’s needed for future criminal investigations.
“Being able to look at the social network of the bad guys is always great evidence in solving a crime,” said former FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker.
But Swecker said our laws haven't kept up with today's technology. Congress is currently working to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. Law enforcement agencies hope this proposal makes the cut.
“This is nothing new. Court orders can pretty much get you access to anything that’s available,” Swecker said. “The question is, can you force the carriers to make this info available and store the info when they wouldn’t ordinarily do it. I think the answer is going to be yes.”
According to the ACLU, as of 2010, the top five cell providers in the U.S. stored the content of text messages for days or not at all.
The ACLU and people Eyewitness News talked to think this request goes too far.
“For two years?” Jasmine Thomas said. “I think that would be a lot.”
Critics also worry their personal messages could end up on public display if the data fell into the wrong hands.
“How would they store it in the first place, and who is actually looking at the information?” Eugene Brownfield asked. “It's invasion of your privacy, I figure.”
If Congress agrees to the proposal, Swecker said that investigators will likely still need a warrant to access the text message information.