Responding to our post the other day about how AT&T Wireless keeps an archive of every text message sent by its subscribers, the guy who designed and implemented the SMS text messaging systems for Sprint and a large part of what is now Cingular gave us the scoop on how both carriers offer considerably more privacy than AT&T Wireless:
While the Sprint system is MUCH more sophisticated and does retain some data for a long time (billing and usage info, and similar) neither of these systems retain the actual content of SMS messages. Sprint's system lets the user have a web based SMS mailbox (like an web mail but for SMS messages) and messages can be kept, at the user's choice, in their mailbox but once a message is deleted, it's gone. In Cingular's case there is no retention at all. So, while the piece is true as relates to AT&T, it definately isn't for Cingular and Sprint.
One more thing… In Sprint's system someone who has root access to the servers can read the messages but it's really hard to do since you would have to create an SQL query manually and you'd have to know a lot about the database. In Cingular's systems I know of only 2 people who could possibly read the messages before they are delivered — there's no database — and they can't be read after they've been delivered.
We're going to follow up with the other carriers, but if anyone else has any details about their systems or policies please drop us a line.