September 26, 2008

Text Messages and Privacy

author_janis By Janis Prince Inniss

clip_image002About 15 years ago I probably only knew one person with a cell phone, but today I probably only know one person without one. I caved in several years ago, making my peace with a new bill by vowing to stick to the cheapest plan available. But that’s where I draw the line; I am not a texter. This is my logic: Why would I spend money to say something for even a few additional cents, if I could say it for less? 

This is the main reason that I rarely use the text messaging (short message service or sms) feature on my cell phone. I could pay 10 to 20 cents per text message which is not an enormous amount—unless I send lots of messages, or I could pay about $10 per month for unlimited text messaging. Again, not a lot of money, but I’m already paying for a plan to talk to people, so why would I pay an additional charge to send them a text message? Adding to my irritation at such consumption is the fact that I would have to type using the tiny keys on a phone–not very efficient or ergonomic. I can talk much faster than I can type, even on a full size keyboard so why try to text my thoughts, feelings, and opinions when I could just call folks?

Evidently, I am in the minority on this though because texting is big business. About 116 million or 52 percent of American subscribers are active texters. And as I mentioned in a previous post, teens text at a rate of about 50-70 per day. Amazingly, not only are people texting a lot, but the kinds of things they ”say” in texts is mind-boggling. For example, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his chief of staff Christine Beatty denied that they were having an affair (both were married to other people), but their lie was brought to light by text messages detailing an intimate relationship. In case you’re not familiar with the case, Kilpatrick denied have the extra-marital affair with Beatty in a costly police whistle-blower case. Yet, steamy text messages were found rehashing their sexual encounters and their plans for additional romps. Here are two of the less explicit text messages that leave no doubt about the nature of their relationship:

Beatty: I still want to be in your arms, kiss you, hug you, love you. Listening to you speak and wishing you were my husband.

Kilpatrick: You were my girl for as long as I can remember. I was too young and stupid to know. I promise for the rest of my life you will be my girl.

Further, the text messages indicate that Kilpatrick and Beatty had fired a deputy police chief, which means that they both lied under oath that the intent was to remove the deputy police chief from that particular assignment and that he was not fired. However an email from Beatty to Kilpatrick states: "I'm sorry that we are going through this mess because of a decision that we made to fire Gary Brown. I will make sure that the next decision is much more thought out. Not regretting what was done at all. But thinking about how we can do things smarter." To this, Kilpatrick replied: "It had to happen though. I'm all the way with that!"

In another case of a female teacher and student engaged in a sexual relationship, Stephanie Ragusa, a Tampa middle school teacher is accused of having sex with at least four underage victims. Ragusa and a sixteen-year old she’s accused of having sex with exchanged hundreds of text messages of a steamy nature: 

Ragusa: Do u have a movie u want to watch at ur house? U know. In addition to… Wink wink.
Victim: No…
R: So no “date” … Which is what we really need. Bedroom girlfriend?! Baby. Lets try to do something romantic, different.
V: Like wat?
R: Idk. Can you think of anything. Maybe…giving each other massages.? Candle light. Music. Or pleasant/romantic movie”
V: Then come over
R: With massage oil? Candles? Towels? Movie?
V: Idk whatever u want?
R: Tell me what u want.

Another time Ragusa sent the student a note which read:

I loved today. The sex was amazing.

Ragusa even sent a text to the teen with the knowledge that the police were on the way to her home to investigate vandalism of her (adult) boyfriend’s truck, saying: “There are major problems here now. Tony and the police r on the way. They want to fingerprint the truck and take me down to the station.”

clip_image004Why do people send such incriminating text messages? What are your thoughts? Here are some possibilities. With the distance that technology can provide, people may be emboldened to say things they would not in person—which can lead to even more incriminating texts being sent. And people can text while doing almost anything and from most places. I imagine that Kilpatrick was both serving as mayor and texting. Ragusa was texting as she awaited the police. And we don’t think of text messages as the written documents that they are. People are probably more careful about what they say in a personal letter, given its material existence. But a text just disappears and is gone. Where does it go? It disappears from your screen and that’s that, or so we think. Apparently that’s not the end of them as these cases indicate.

Unfortunately for Kilpatrick and Beatty, SkyTel, the provider for government and corporations stores all text messages for legal purposes. What about your carrier? Do you have any idea what their sms storage policy is? Is your carrier storing every text you ever sent? Might that cause you embarrassment or even jail time? Aspects of our lives in this technological age are being recorded without our knowledge; do you behave differently with that knowledge in mind?

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Comments

The same things are happening in europe also: http://blog.kiasworld.co.uk/1_kiasworld_blog/archive/51_warning_over_phone_calls_database.html - take a look around Kias World - we are fighting against this sort of thing - to try to establish some basic privacy for people again.

I heard that universities are now searching students facebooks and myspaces to see if they still qualify for acceptance. Many students have been reconsidered due to the content of these websites. Perhaps text messages will be just as available making it so that fewer and fewer people would be accepted to colleges, job offers, ect.

Most people I know text it’s the best way to communicate with someone without having to go through a long boring conversation. Text messages are a great way to chit-chat with someone when you can’t really communicate with someone. For example, if you want to talk late at night and don’t want to disturb your roommate or when you’re waiting at an interview and your ride is wondering what time to pick you up. Unfortunately, texting has its down side it’s not personal at all there’s always someone that is hovering over you or can stumble upon your text, especially if you’re careless and leave your phone on a break table or work station. Texting is the new wave and can be incriminating I completely agree with the blog and has opened my eyes and made me realize I need to be more careful with my cell phone. Cell phones are totally retractable, especially when the phone bill arrives its shows all contacts and texts are worse someone can see them. Texting your lover is so wrong and it shows you how dumb some people really are. This blog really makes one realize how dumb people are and how incriminating texting can be. What happened to that teacher and old guy they totally deserved it their erased text messages came back to bite them in the ass and I’m glad. Their stupidity got the better of them.

The blog posting "Text Messaging and Privacy" described how millions of people in America are texting away, and how some people do not like texting because of the tiny little keys and some people just prefer talking over texting. It also talks about how your text messages or short message service (SMS) can be used as incriminating evidence by the government. In one Case Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his chief of staff Christine Beatty were having an affair when both of them were married to other people, they found text messages showing their affair and how they had lied under oath about firing the cheif of police. In another case a middle school teacher in florida who was having an affair with an underage student was sending steamy text messages to her student. Skytel the provider for government and corporations stores all text messages for legal purposes.

I am the type of person whom would rather text than talk on the phone any day. Even when my friends call me, most of the time I just answer back in a text. This is much easier for me because when you talk on the phone you can only communicate with one person however if you are texting it is different because you can text more than one person. However this sometimes back fires on me because sometimes I forget what I was about to text which person.

I feel that it is an invasion of privacy for Skytel to keep track of all text messages. This is because it is just like tapping phone lines because most people do not know this fact and they might say some thing that was not meant for anyone else to hear. For example sometimes when I am wit my friends and I do not want to say something out loud I will just text it to my friend. This makes the conversation more private and I can just erase the text message. I also understand that with them keeping a record of text messages helps as evidence if someone was doing something that is against the law.

I also like having the option to text and talk because my mom doesn't text and I can communicate with as well as keep up with all the texting lingo.

An invisible paper trail? WOW! I had no idea about that people were actually getting prosecuted based on what they say in text messages. This isn't the first time this year that I've heard about this kind of stuff happening either. Down at SDSU, a college drug ring was busted through TEXTS! This is a little bit scary as a person in today's generation, is everything we're doing being recorded? Just how much does the government know we are doing? Is there a limit to their reach? These are all questions that I wanted to ask after reading this.

This article to me was about much more than just an old woman's rants about how she doesn't like texting. Instead, it told readers why to be weary of texting. Just how many incriminating things are being recorded? Just how many cases have actually been determined or based on text messages? Do these hold up in court?

For me personally, I like texting because it's easier than talking on the phone. I get bored....pretty easily. I don't want to sit around on the phone for an hour talking to some girl. I'd rather just shoot her a few texts throughout the day while I do OTHER THINGS! That is the biggest advantage of texting in my opinion, it's a multi-tasking tool. It allows people to relay the messages and have conversations while they do other things.

I will say when texting first started to get big, I was one of those people who said why bother. When I can just call someone and talk to them. As time passed and more of my friends became text hungry I had to join in. The benefits are really focused around school; texting is just virtual note passing. So the concept of texting has been in schools for years it's just had a major over hall is all. Other times I have found texting use full is sometimes I text people to see if they can talk. Also to send little love note to my girlfriend. It makes private conversation possible while on a bus or at work.
On the point of wheather or not the government should be reading and saving are texts, seems very juvenile to me. The government dos not have time to read all the text that come through, even with keywords that filter a lot out. The time they are going to really read them is if you have done something wrong, and now they need to find evidence. What I'm really trying to say is you don’t need to worry about it if you’re not doing anything wrong. Texting is a wonderful addition to the world of communication and society.

Texting is something that never attracted me. While I am a victim of texting, I never understood the concept behind it, as it is less expensive and faster to speak to someone on the phone. However, that fact that the government is storing on our text messages does bother me. I understand the reasoning behind the storage, which is for individual protection, but I feel that that storing the messages is infringing on our privacy rights. Also, I believe that text messages should not be used in any legal court case.
A text message is very similar to a piece of mail. It is a felony to open another person’s letter, and the government is not exempted from this legality. What right does anyone have to read through other people’s lives and make assumptions and generalizations about that person? A text message should carry the same fine, as people should not be reading private messages that do not involve him/her.
I also have a problem with a judge using a text message in court as evidence. Many cell phones use a SIM card, which can easily be stolen, as well as the phone. Someone could have just as easily used the phone and sent text messages without the owner’s knowledge. Essentially anyone can be framed, hence why text messages are very hard to use in courts.

I was very pleased with this article because I obtained knowledge pertaining to the fact that I was unaware that there was a company out there like SKytek. Although I am not too concerned with incriminating myself through text messaging, I found this to be exceedingly interesting. However, this article lacked to touch on the main reason I prefer text messaging more so than talking on the phone. Texts are straight to the point and very understandable. There is even a way to send in a text the emotion one is feeling through an emicon. This is usually a little face displaying happy, sad, and other simple emotions. When I talk on the phone I sometimes feel annoyed and want to tell the person I'm talking to that he or she is boring the heck out of me, but that is considered rude in this society. When texting, you can respond accordingly and do other things while you are having a conversation. When I am in class and get a call from my parents that I am unable to pick up do to certain policies and restrictions, I usually send them a short and sweet text back that I am in class and will call them later. Not only is texting an important technological advancement, it can be a very useful tool to communicate to others when talking on the phone is not an option or is just simply not preferred.

I believe Inniss has a many great points within her posting. Although since she has not experienced text messaging and also made it obvious that she was against even getting a cell phone at the beginning of this huge phenomena with cell phones. So why would she be up to learning or approving of text messages? Text messaging, personally, isn’t a way to break up with your boyfriend, or have a full on conversation with; but to figure something out quickly, or saying a quick hi, or I love you.
I have thought about how our cell phone companies store my text messages. I am one of the 52% of people who text message on a daily basis. But I use it to stay in touch with people I wouldn’t talk to on a daily basis. It is also great for when you want many different people to know about the same thing, you can send out a massive text message to everyone and you didn’t have to talk about a million different people. Simple, fast, reliant.
The problem is definitely people say a lot more over text messaging then they would through a normal conversation on the phone. You don’t have to be shy, you can say what is on your mind, and you don’t have to see the other person’s reaction. It is like the mirror self, you always thinking of what other’s is thinking about you first. I can definitely be in this category as well, you can almost just be yourself and say the first thing that comes into your mind because you don’t have to face that person and see their reaction of disapproval.

I think that Iniss is being slightly too critical of text messages. Yes, I do agree that you could save a lot of money by not using texts and just using the minutes that you are already paying for, but through text messages we are creating and looking for a different type of conversation. It could be a quick hello or a short simple question, etc. Although it seems dehumanizing to the conversation, its just another method of communication, and has to be seen as different from a normal face-to-face interaction.
In regards to the privacy issue of text messages, I do believe that people are not giving texts enough credit as a form of documentation, because it does seem as though once the message is deleted from your phone, it is deleted from being. It is dangerous to discuss certain private things over text messaging, but then again, it could be just as dangerous to have a conversation with someone if you are talking about something inappropriate or illegal. If you are having an affair or sleeping with underage students, then you should be afraid to text message certain things in regards to those circumstances; but at the same time, if you weren't doing anything deviant, then you would have no reason to fear texting. If you are doing devious acts and are caught through text messaging, then I think if anything text messaging is helpful to our society in that sense. It is dangerous to think that all of our texts may be being documented, but i think if there is no reason to look for them, they will never be searched for. Don't give the government a reason to want to ask a company to sort through your texts.

we talk all the time...if you read the paragraph I wrote at all you'd see that I have told her I am going to try it. There is no lack of communication, she is just nosy and annoying.

we talk all the time...if you read the paragraph I wrote at all you'd see that I have told her I am going to try it. There is no lack of communication, she is just nosy and annoying.

I think texting may work well for side stepping emotions. For me, texting is a chore and I think I feel uneasy in general with it and use it with those who have a need for distance or when I do.

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