New document reveals which carriers are collecting the most data and for how long

Crowd phones

With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Wired has published a document detailing how mobile carriers are dealing with your data. The report, which was obtained via a Freedom of Information Act claim, lays out the operations of the major networks.

threat levelThe one-page paper, titled “Retention Periods of Major Cellular Service Providers” and stamped “Law Enforcement Only,” lays out how Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint (which the other two listed companies, Nextel and Virgin Mobile, have been folded into), each have their own policies regarding consumer data. Here are some of the more notable (all for post-paid phones).

  • AT&T retains your call details records 5-7 years, T-Mobile for five. Compare that to the other services, which hold on to this information for 1-2 years.
  • AT&T keeps text message details (the numbers you’re texting and who’s texting you) for 5-7 years. T-Mobile does this for five.
  • Verizon keeps the contents—yes, the contents—of your text messages for 3-5 days. None of the other big four do this.

Take note that the report was printed in August 2010, but it would be a pretty big shift of all of these companies policies had experienced large changes in policies since. The news comes as mobile companies are facing intensifying scrutiny over their data retention and tracking practices. You can view an easier-to-read version of the document here for yourself.

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