How to Cover Your Text Message Tracks

It's Friday, so the mass of stupid and regrettable (and maybe criminal) text messages you wished you never sent is about explode exponentially, as it does every weekend. Google, as you know, keeps your embarrassing search history for "AZN Squirrels Pooping on Bananas" or "Iron Man upskirt" for 18 months. But how long do Verizon and AT&T hang on to your shameful SMSes? Thankfully, not long at all. Sprint hangs on to your textual diarrhea the longest, for about two weeks, while AT&T dumps them after 48 hours, according to Slate's Explainer. We hit up Verizon, who said a "couple days, tops." There are a couple catches, though.

While with the major carriers, for the most part, no one (not even the cops) can dredge up stuff from years ago since it's been long deleted, watch out if you're on an employer's carrier, like Skytel, which touts its messaging archival features. The other major catch is that even deleted messages can be recovered directly from your phone, just like deleted data from any other storage device, because of the way deletion works—it just marks the data as okay to be overwritten, so if it hasn't been replaced by new data, it's still recoverable. It's a bit easier to snag from SIM cards (which can hold up to 30 messages) than from the phone's internal memory 'cause there are dedicated gadgets for doing so.

Bottom line though, text messages are still probably the safest way to go about your business (dirty or otherwise) without worrying about getting snooped (much safer than IM or email, which are notoriously logged)—as long as you wipe them off your actual phone and make it past the two-day mark carrier-side. An anonymous prepaid phone works even better, obviously. [Slate]