Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Article: Think before you text

Years later, cell phone text messages can come back to haunt you. According to CNN.com, ancient text messages may be ordered to be produced as evidence in the Kobe Bryant trial (see below). These messages "tend to be saved on servers."

Canada's federal privacy law, PIPEDA, has applied to telecom companies since 2001. One of the principles of the law is that information can only be retained for as long as is reasonable for the purposes for which the information was collected:

4.5 Principle 5 -- Limiting Use, Disclosure, and Retention

Personal information shall not be used or disclosed for purposes other than those for which it was collected, except with the consent of the individual or as required by law. Personal information shall be retained only as long as necessary for the fulfilment of those purposes.


Organizations should develop guidelines and implement procedures with respect to the retention of personal information. These guidelines should include minimum and maximum retention periods. Personal information that has been used to make a decision about an individual shall be retained long enough to allow the individual access to the information after the decision has been made. An organization may be subject to legislative requirements with respect to retention periods.


Personal information that is no longer required to fulfil the identified purposes should be destroyed, erased, or made anonymous. Organizations shall develop guidelines and implement procedures to govern the destruction of personal information.

It would seem that Canadian telcos should not be retaining these messages indefinitely. Of course, "should" and "do" are two entirely different matters... Beware what you text, it may come back in civil or criminal proceedings.

The CNN story on the Bryan trial is here:

CNN.com - Think before you text - Jun 7, 2004:

"DENVER, Colorado (AP) -- A few hours after NBA star Kobe Bryant had sex with a Vail-area hotel worker last summer, the woman exchanged cell phone text messages with a former boyfriend and someone else.

What's in those messages could help determine whether the sex was consensual or whether Bryant is guilty of rape as charged. The judge himself said the content may be 'highly relevant' to the case.

That the judge could order the woman's cell phone company to produce the messages so long after they were sent shouldn't surprise anyone, analysts say.

Texters beware. Like e-mail and Internet instant messages, text messages tend to be saved on servers.

'One of the false assumptions that people make is that when they hit the delete button, messages are gone forever, but nothing can be further from the truth,' said Jeff Kagan, an independent telecommunications analyst in Atlanta."

See also Slashdot discussion of the issue ...

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