House subcommittee chairman Jim Sensenbrenner will preside over today's hearing to discuss updating a 1986 privacy law.
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 to record and store customers' 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.
"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 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."
They had asked that an SMS retention requirement be glued onto any new law designed to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act for the cloud computing era -- a move that would complicate debate over such a measure and erode support for it among civil libertarians and the technology firms lobbying for a rewrite.
Given how rubber-stamp-y the courts seem to be about making the carriers fork over call records, I don't really see it being a substantial barrier for them to get text messages if they get their wish. I'm not really happy about this one.