It’s quite amazing that someone would have thought that a backup copy of their deleted SMS would be available from the telcos if they accidentally deleted their SMS. The official reply from 2 of the telcos was that the messages are expunged daily, with Singtel commenting that they do it a “regular basis”. Come to think of it, this is beginning to sound like the start of a good model to work on. The telcos may consider offering a service of SMS backup that will be accessible to the subscribers on a monthly basis, and the onus will be on the subscribers to back it up onto their PC. While software may be available to backup SMSes directly from phone, it may not always be possible.

Additionally, the subscribers may even configure such that the SMS are zipped and sent to their email addresses every month so that they do not have to worry about logging in every month to download it. This is a good idea, isn’t it? So, if you are a 3rd party start-up company and are interested in figuring out how to do this without going through the telcos, do feel free to drop me an email to discuss. I can do this without a fee, do let me in on some shares. =P

Talk about being a serial entrepreneur. =)

IF YOU have deleted an important text message, don’t expect your cellphone company to have a magical backup server that will bail you out.

One Singapore man recently found that out the hard way when he tried to recover messages that he had trashed nine months ago.

Mr Huang Yongliang wrote to The Straits Times Forum this week asking about the possibility of retrieving the long-since-deleted texts.

‘I got curious about the policies on retrieving SMSes when I accidentally deleted mine,’ said Mr Huang.

The 27-year-old said he wanted the texts for ‘personal reasons’, but declined to elaborate.

Telecom companies, though, said customers can practically kiss the messages goodbye once they hit the delete button. The companies handle billions of messages annually and deleted SMSes are expunged from servers almost immediately, they say.

SingTel, for example, said it processes 20 million text messages a day. That adds up to around seven billion a year.

‘It is therefore not economically or physically viable to store SMSes in our system for retrieval purposes,’ said its corporate communications manager Cheam Tze Hui in a statement.

There are a few exceptions. Logs that record the phone number, date and time of an SMS are captured and stored. StarHub and M1 keep these records for seven years and one year respectively. It is understood that these logs serve as verification when customers dispute SMS charges on their bills.

Meanwhile, telecom companies say they also face privacy concerns when it comes to releasing text messages. Even if they are still on a backup server, SingTel said it will not release them – not even to someone who wants to retrieve his own message.

Telecom companies will, however, release the information to the police and the courts. The former have the right to such information when they are investigating a crime.

In 2001, police probing fake bomb threats sent via SMS traced the texts to a 20-year-old national serviceman. They tracked him using help from the telcos, which would not specifically reveal the method. But the telcos suggested that it involved SMS logs.

In civil lawsuits, a judge can order companies to release messages if they are relevant to the case, according to Mr P. Padman, a partner in law firm Tito Isaac & Co. He has encountered this in defamation and divorce cases in the past. However, telcos are obliged to give the courts only information which they still possess.

The only way to be certain of retaining the SMSes for one’s own use is to keep them in phones, according to service providers.

Two telcos – M1 and StarHub – said SMSes are purged from their systems as soon as they are delivered. SingTel would only say that while this is not done daily, it is fairly regular.  

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 14th June 2008



Reader's Comments

  1. Onlooker | June 14th, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Hi Jean. This is totally unrelated but I picked this news up from STonline (seems to be the case in a lot of companies now my opinion). And I’m really worried now for a lot of our local Financial institutions.
    Just imagine Software that you paid for lock you out by the programmer who created/administrate it. Ransomware perhaps? And strangely enough it remind me of window Vista.

  2. Simply Jean | June 14th, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    @Onlooker: Hey, thanks for pointing this out. I have not known of people who create “randomwares”, but I do know of people who created “backdoor-wares”, where they leave a backdoor for the purpose of convenience.

  3. Onlooker | June 15th, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Like those cheat codes are actually for the game tester to test the game quicker (think early Megaman level grid a|b button in sequence) but I’m beginning to see the point in pair programming(eXProg)(in this case) though I hated it(for obvious reason).
    Then I get to serve NS and no progress has been made for 2 week when I’m gone leh. Guess who got blamed. Hint not the Talent who …. .. to the talent boss all the time. It’s the one who “didn’t plan properly? even though tell boss as soon as get saf100 from NS” was absent. But really 2 week can get at least something (like say 1 line of code) done what. -_- and I rest my case.

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