Destroyed phone - fate of text messages

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by jdag, Jul 29, 2015.

  1. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    #1
    I have zero intention of starting an argument here about the Tom Brady situation. I just have a question about text messages...

    Would destroying a cell phone make the contents, specifically text messages, unretrievable?

    I believe that Brady was using a Samsung phone, not an iPhone. But my question is more general. Aren't such communications available for retrieval somewhere? Or is it purely based on the underlying operating system and/or software being used?

    I know in my case, if I destroyed my iPhone, my Mac would still have texts visible within the Messages app. Further, I would imagine I could retrieve via backups.
     
  2. rui no onna macrumors 601

    rui no onna

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2013
    #2
    Depends on whether there's a backup available somewhere. For example, if I were using the original iPhone (2G) and never bothered to back up with iTunes, I would lose all my messages if the iPhone was destroyed.

    As far as I'm aware, there's no native SMS backup available for Android (although I'm not sure about Samsung TouchWiz). I don't think carriers keep SMS/MMS all that long either. In this case, then yes, you could render data irretrievable by destroying the phone.
     
  3. Newtons Apple macrumors Pentium

    Newtons Apple

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    Mar 12, 2014
    Location:
    Jacksonville, Florida
    #3
    It all depends on the level of destruction. The old texts and other data would be on the RAM and would require destruction of that RAM chip to destroy the data. This could be accomplished by hitting the RAM directly with a hammer to destroy it, burning it or just a few seconds in a microwave.

    The NSA likely has a copy of everything and even the carrier, I think, has to preserve this information for legal purposes for a given amount of time. The problem here is that the NFL does not have the power to get this information handed over to them from either our government or the carrier. This would take a judge to issue a warrant to do it legally.

    Do not tell anyone but my iPad Air 2 mirrors all of my texts!
     
  4. rui no onna macrumors 601

    rui no onna

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2013
    #4
    RAM is volatile memory and would lose data if power is cut off. Data is likely stored on eMMC/NAND but if encrypted, is pretty useless anyway. I do believe a simple factory reset is enough deterrent from retrieving old messages (assuming no other backups exist).

    As for SMS retention, while the NSA may have a copy of it, carrier retention rules vary. I don't think there's a law yet with regards to SMS retention. AT&T keeps a record of who/when you sent SMS for a long time but they don't keep the actual contents of the SMS.

     
  5. Newtons Apple macrumors Pentium

    Newtons Apple

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    Mar 12, 2014
    Location:
    Jacksonville, Florida
    #5
    Yep you are right about the RAM, my error. TEXT records are turned over all the time by the carriers for proof in court for things like texting and driving. Maybe some carriers do not comply but I am betting most do.

    There is no doubt the NSA has it and likely way more.
     
  6. rui no onna macrumors 601

    rui no onna

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2013
    #6
    Text records - metadata yes. Basically dates, times and who sent/received the message - that's enough information to show whether someone was texting while driving. The actual content of the text message, even the longest seem to only be kept a couple of weeks. Carriers need to keep metadata for billing purposes but it's a hassle for carriers to keep actual content.
     
  7. jdag thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Jun 15, 2012
    #7
    So it is fair to say that destroying a smartphone will make retrieving past text messages more difficult, but (maybe) not impossible. That's what I had assumed.
     
  8. Newtons Apple macrumors Pentium

    Newtons Apple

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    Mar 12, 2014
    Location:
    Jacksonville, Florida
    #8
    Technically you would need to make sure the actual memory chip that had the data was destroyed. I suspect that the microwave could do it without a single hammer's blow!
     
  9. cynics macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2012
    #10
    Also going to depend the user has going on. If they are using a desktop text client the messages are going to be on the desktop and likely on the servers used to push that data.
     

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