Twenty years ago, British engineer, Neil Papworth sent the world’s first text message, “Merry Christmas,” to a mobile phone.
Although SMS (Short Message Service) was originally conceived some years before, with hindsight Papworth’s message was momentous moment in the history of communications., notes the Daily Mail.
At the time, however, the young engineer had no concept of how big texting would be. “We thought SMS was a clever way for a company’s staff to send simple messages to one another,” he told the Daily Mail last year, “I’d never have predicted that it would spread into the consumer world… at the time it didn’t seem like a big deal.”
Assuming that SMS data will not grow, Twitter data will soon likely surpass SMS data. It’s free.
Today, six billion SMS messages are sent every day in the United States, according to Forrester Research, and over 2.2 trillion are sent a year. Globally, 8.6 trillion text messages are sent each year, according to Portio Research. Their forecasts show SMS traffic continuing to grow worldwide over the next four years, adding another trillion to the annual total by 2016.
In the U.S., SMS is often charged both at the sender and at the destination, but, unlike phone calls, it cannot be rejected or dismissed.
Even if you are not talking on your cell phone, your phone is constantly sending and receiving information over a pathway called a control channel explains How Things Work, so that your phone can change cells as you move around. Every so often, your phone and the tower will exchange a packet of data that lets both of them know that everything is OK.
When someone tries to call you, the tower sends your phone a message over the control channel that tells your phone to play its ringtone. It is also used to send text messages.
The actual data format for the message includes things like the length of the message, a time stamp, the destination phone number, the format, etc.
State and local law enforcement groups want wireless providers to store detailed information about your SMS messages for at least two years — in case they’re needed for future criminal investigations, says C/Net’s Declan McCullagh.
Chuck DeWitt, a spokesman for the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, which represents the 63 largest U.S. police forces including New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago, said “all such records should be retained for two years.” Some providers, like Verizon, retain the contents of SMS messages for a brief period of time, while others like T-Mobile do not store them at all.
AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and other wireless providers would be required to record and store information about Americans’ private text messages for at least two years, according to a proposal that police have submitted to the U.S. Congress.
Reports from carriers uncovered in July outline a startling spike in surveillance requests among law enforcement, with many circumventing the need to obtain a warrant to dig through customer records.
With the rising prevalence of cellphones, officials at all levels of law enforcement say cell tracking represents a powerful tool to find suspects, follow leads, identify associates and cull information on a wide range of crimes.