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    Two stories about the data trail left by mobile phones

    The New York Times and the Washington Post both have stories about the data trail left by cellphone text messages and how this mobile data can be used to invade individual privacy. (Info on mobile data security is after the jump.)

    The New York Times notes:

    Unlike earlier eras when a dalliance might be suspected but not confirmed, nowadays text messages provide proof. Divorce lawyers say they have seen an increase in cases in the past year where a wronged spouse has offered text messages to show that a partner has strayed. The American Bar Association began offering seminars this fall for marital attorneys on how to use electronic evidence — text messages, browsing history and social networks — in proving a case. […]

    Although most e-mail users have come to understand that messages remain on their computers even if deleted, text messages are often regarded as more ephemeral — type, hit “send” and off it goes into the ether. But messages can remain on the sender’s and receiver’s phones, and even if they are deleted, communications companies store them for anywhere from days to a few weeks. AT&T said that, at most, it saved text messages for 72 hours while Verizon said it saved them for 5 to 10 days. […]

    At the root of the issue is privacy — or rather the increasing lack of it in our show-and-tell digital culture. Text messages are considered private, much as telephone calls are, legal experts say. But if a cheating spouse’s cellphone is part of a family calling plan or regularly left unlocked and unattended on the dinner table or night stand, it is conceivable that a partner who suspects infidelity could make a case for sifting through the in-box.

    The Washington Post has this to say about Tiger Woods’ alleged text messages to a waitress, “What kind of nitwit celebrity would still leave an e-trail?”

    Did he not learn from Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), whose affair was apparently discovered because of a text message? Was he not convinced by the career annihilation of Kwame Kilpatrick after the revelation of naughty notes between the former Detroit mayor and his chief of staff? If only Woods had watched a recent episode of “Glee” — Quinn catches Puck sexting — he would have realized the technology that enables you can also destroy you. […]

    “The first thing my partner and I said,” Mike Russell says. “We said, ‘Wait, [Woods has] got all that money and he doesn’t have a bat phone?’ ” — the secret cell kept just for booty calls. […]

    Because the cheaters never have a bat phone. They never seem to realize how nakedly traceable their actions are.

    In October, a reporter learned much can be gleaned from the mobile devices after she handed some over to “DiskLabs, a company that handles cellphone forensic analysis for UK police forces, but also for private companies and individuals snooping on suspect employees or wayward spouses.”

    When [Neil Buck, a senior analyst at DiskLabs,] looked at my colleague’s iPhone, he found two 4-digit numbers stored in his address book under the names “M” and “V”. A search through his text messages revealed a few from Virgin informing him that a new credit card, ending in a specific number, had just been mailed to him. Buck guessed that “M” and “V” were PIN codes for the Virgin credit card and a Mastercard — and he proved to be correct on both counts.

    The fact that text data is used in civil or criminal cases or in identity theft shows the necessity for security protections for mobile phone data. Last month, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal offered suggestions on how to protect the privacy of the data held on your cellphone.

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