Every time we lecture about which cell phone companies hold what data and for how long, we have to offer a caveat - blink your eyes and the information may change.
Yesterday, I read an article about a document obtained by the ACLU from the Justice Department's cybercrime division. It is a one page document for law enforcement. Here's who keeps what among cell phone companies.
Verizon Wireless keeps information about which cell towers subscribers' phones connect to for a year. AT&T has kept that data since July of 2008.
Verizon keeps information for up to a year that can determine if a particular phone visited a particular website.
Sprint Nextel's Virgin Mobile brand keeps the content of text messages for three months and Verizon for 3-5 days. The other carriers do not keep text content but do keep records of who texted who for more than a year. AT&T keeps records of who texts who and when for up to seven years. Virgin Mobile keeps that data for 2-3 months.
While the carriers do not record phone calls, they do keep information about calls made and received for at least a year.
The ACLU is quite right - we have a right to know how long these companies keep our private data and which data they keep. Privacy in 2011 is increasingly a matter of wishful thinking - and it is bound to get worse.
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