Law enforcement agencies want to require cellular providers under the force of Federal law to keep a record of all text messages in case they ever need them.
AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and other wireless providers would be required to capture and store Americans’ confidential text messages, according to a proposal that will be presented to a congressional panel today. The law enforcement proposal would require wireless providers torecord and storecustomers’ 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.
So the cops want a record of every single text message sent. What ever happened to privacy and being secure in our communications? How can people communicate if they know that a permanent record of the communication is being kept by a third party? This is an attack on the right to privacy.
“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 (PDF) 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.”
Yes, but most Americans are not criminals. There is no compelling need for the state to require a permanent record of all text messages sent.
Not only does Littlehale want a permanent record, he wants to access it without even getting a warrant in “emergency circumstances”.
Littlehale also proposed that any attempt to update ECPA include revised “emergency” language that would allow police to demand records from providers without search warrants in some cases.
Nowhere in the Constitution does it say due process can be suspended in “emergency circumstances”. This is simply a power grab by law enforcement.
As my colleague S.K. Mann wrote on Monday, civil liberties are what should unite all Americans. Our liberties are what make America exceptional. We shouldn’t throw them away based on fear.