A proposal is being presented to the United States Congressional Panel today which would require mobile providers to store copies of SMS messages in case they are needed by police for investigative purposes. If passed, this new requirement would be an amendment to the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).

This PDF document contains prepared key points and remarks by Richard Littlehale, a supervisor within the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, who will be making the presentation to Congress. These statements include remarks detailing how wide-spread the use of SMS is and how vital text messages could be in investigations into various crimes.

To explain a general reasoning for these new mandates, Richard states,

The primary emergency disclosure provision in the section of ECPA that we use to obtain stored content is voluntary for the providers, not mandatory, and even where emergency access is granted to law enforcement, in some instances, there is insufficient service provider compliance staff to process legitimate emergency requests quickly.

Mr. Littlehale's argument is that providers should be required to maintain this information and have quick availability of it so that law enforcers are able to maximize their investigative options. Littlehale also plans to propose that the existing "emergency" clause should be updated to allow police the possibility to demand records without a search warrant in emergency situations.

Included in this document from ACLU are statistics regarding the retention periods currently used by a number of mobile providers for various types of data transfer.

Speculators believe that if a new law such as this is passed, it would not only affect SMS privacy, but also email, Twitter, Facebook, and many other forms of electronic communication.

Sources:
CNET