OMG! Mom and dad may soon be able to look over their children's shoulders to see exactly what they are texting. :-(
Legislation approved late Monday at the Senate Judiciary Committee would require cell phone providers to offer a service to parents that would let them review any messages sent to or received on phones paid for by the adult but held by a minor child.
The parents would have to subscribe to -- and pay for -- that extra service. But the measure, SB 1219, does not spell out how much the companies could charge.
Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, said that, at the threshold level, it's only fair, as the parents are the ones picking up the tab. But at this point, he said, there is no way of getting that information.
He said officials at Verizon, for example, told him the company saves all texts for three days. Crandall said that makes sense, given the sheer volume of messages and the kind of storage that would otherwise be necessary.
But he said anyone who wants to see the actual content of the text needs a court order, even if it is within the parent's account.
That, said Crandall, is not acceptable.
"A parent, if they have a daughter who's being threatened by someone, or the daughter's being harassed or bullied, by the time they get a court order they could have purged most of those text messages," he said.
Crandall said the phone companies should love it.
"This could be a great profit center for Verizon," he said.
But Verizon lobbyist John Kelly said it's not that simple.
He said his company supports the intent of the measure. But Kelly said there are electronic privacy rules that also come into play.
"There's always a risk that complying with a state law may put a company at violation with federal law," Kelly said.
Legal questions aside, he said there are technical issues for all cell companies to come up with a system to capture the texts of Arizona customers when none exists for the rest of the country. And then there's the question of determining who is an Arizona customer.
He pointed out that many people keep the same cell phone number even after they move. That means Verizon might have a family living in Arizona but the area code is from another state.
Rep. Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley, said getting the texts may not be the cure-all Crandall thinks. The 68-year-old grandmother said she's not sure even if she got a copy of the texts she would understand them, what with the emoticons and abbreviations.
Crandall joked that the phone company could make money by providing "interpretive services."
Still, Burges said she wasn't convinced all this state-mandated intervention is necessary.
"Why don't you take a flashlight and go in the closet and read them" while your child is asleep, she asked.
"They are quick to delete," Crandall responded of the teens. But he said the texts still exist on the phone company's servers -- and would remain there longer if his legislation is approved.
The bill now needs approval of the full Senate before going to the House.