August 30, 2006

The Afterlife of Text Messages

Ted Bridis’s story, “Cell Phones Spill Secrets,” should be an eye-opener for the 35% of cell-phone users who send and receive text messages on their phone. Bridis tells how a company bought 10 phones on eBay and then “resurrected” information such as a mistress’s text messages to her married lover and text discussion of a multimillion-dollar federal transportation contract.

My favorite quote from the story was from online security expert Howard Schmidt, who said that a cell phone “is more than something you pick up and talk on. This is your identity.” When my own phone was stolen last winter, I was sorry to lose my contacts list and archived text messages, but most were just updates to my husband about which bus I managed to catch on the way home. But losing my new PDA phone would be much worse. I, like one in four cell phone owners, have taken pictures with my phone and, consequently, have become more emotionally attached to it over time.

We wrote about the cell phone as a “communications Swiss Army knife” in a recent report, but I never had a picture of my son at his first major league baseball game on my old Swiss Army knife. This new communications knife isn’t one that protects me; it’s a knife that I need to protect.