08 February, 2008

Before You Send Your Text-Messaging, Think More Than Once

Text-messaging privacy is being highlighted once again due to the latest text-messaging sex scandal involving Detroit's Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his chief of staff Christine Beatty. The Detroit Free Press examined over 14,000 text messages obtained from Beatty's pager, publishing those that confirmed the two were having an affair and lied under oath about it. The Detroit Free Press can access the database as part of freedom of information act.

The important lesson learned from this latest development is we have to refrain from sending personal emails using the office computer or personal text-messaging using office-supplied hand phone. Usually, the users of any technology issued by an employer shouldn't expect to have any privacy. It's obvious the mayor's mistake was using a city-issued pager to exchange personal messages with his aide. Well, the biggest mistake done my the mayor is to have the scandal in the first place. What about us? Should we have to worry about old texts resurfacing even when using our private lines?

According to a report by the Associated Press, Beatty's text messaging service was provided by SkyTel who has contracts exclusively with corporations and government agencies, and not surprisingly, stores all communication for legal reasons. It's not exactly clear how many years these text messages are archived for, but the Detroit Free Press says the messages obtained cover two months in 2002 and 2003.

The good news about the current available technology is that text-messaging and hand phone usage has been used to expose cheaters, stalkers, murderers, or thieves. The first place law enforcement officers will turn to for clues are the text-messaging and hand phone usage.

Therefore there is no such thing as text message privacy or hand phone usage privacy.
Your privacy is up to you, so you have to be careful with the information you put out there. We may not have any control over our texts once we hit the send button, but you can take a few precautions to keep yourself out of trouble later.

Here are a few tips:
· Don't ever text personal information such as your PIN number, password, or banking information to anyone. Remember, once you send that information to another person, it gets stored in their cell phone and you don't want that.

· Put a password on your phone to keep others from accessing your text logs or email. This will also prevent thieves from stealing information stored in your phone.

· Don't forget to erase all your personal data before selling, recycling or donating your old phone. Many people are still under the impression that taking out your SIM card will do the trick, but that's not true. You'll need a series of codes to permanently delete stored information in one step, instead of manually. For this, you'll need to find out if your phone has a "master reset" feature, which wipes out all the stored data at once. Since every phone has a different set of "master reset" instructions, you'll need to either look them up online or on your phone's manual. You'll need your phone's make and model to get started, so if you don't know it, check the back of the phone or the box.

· Remember that no matter how secure you think your carrier's SMS servers are, the ultimate security of private text messages depends on the recipient. Just ask Mayor Kilpatrick.

· The best choice is use your original hand phone whenever it is still usable and make sure that it is not stolen. If you want to get a new hand phone, use your beloved sledge hammer to smash your original hand phone.

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