What does Your Wireless Carrier Know and How Long do they Keep that Info?

October 7, 2011, By Leo Xavier

Have you ever had the feeling that you are being watched? That someone is spying on every move you make? No? Well, unfortunately, you are being tracked. They know where you go, what you do, what you talk about, and even who you know. It’s about time you learned what all things your wireless carrier knows about you, and for how long it keeps data such as your text messages, call logs and your handset’s web surfing records.

The info comes to us via a Justice Department document prepared for law enforcement with the above said details.

You will definitely be surprised to know about the time period for which data is retained by some of the major cellular service providers in the US.


In the present day, millions of people travel around with a tracking device on themselves – the mobile phone.

Although the device can help you to find directions and locate the closest movie theatre, it also helps your wireless provider to find you – either via your handset’s GPS or by noting your proximity to nearby signal towers. And the data that it collects will tell a lot about you.

The new info has been obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina via a Freedom of Information Act request, and the document Retention Periods of Major Cellular Providers (posted alongside) lets us know about the various lengths of time carriers keep customers’ data.

Here’s a peek at the policies of the four major carriers in the US.

First up is Verizon, which (as you know) is the largest wireless carrier in the US based on number of subscribers. The carrier appears to be too interested in you and many of us as well.

It retains the records of calls and cell towers used, as well as text message details and Internet session information for a year. The carrier saves actual text message content for 3 to 5 days and web sites visited for up to 90 days.

Although AT&T hangs on to call records for a whopping 5 to 7 years and cell tower records since July 2008, the carrier is not interested in retaining text message content. But to make up for that, it saves text message details for between 5 to 7 years. AT&T’s internet session information and destinations are retained for up to 72 hours.

Sprint stores call records and cell tower records for 18 to 24 months, and Internet session and destination details for up to 60 days. Depending on the handset that you use, it retains text message details for up to 18 months. The carrier does not save text message content.

At T-Mobile, you will find call record details for 5 years. The time period for which cell tower info is saved is “officially, 4-6 months, really a year or more”. The carrier retains text message details for 5 years, but it doesn’t keep track of text message content as well as info on Internet session and destination.

Check out all the other details in the document above, and you can comment about it in the box below. What are your thoughts after learning about all this? Are you surprised or are you angry?

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