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Digital & Computer Forensics

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Calender Oct 20, 2015 at 05:55pm

Retention Periods for Cellular Service Providers

Major Cellular Service Provider
    Retention Periods

Regardless of the nature of the litigation you are involved in, it is common that relevant information isl likely to be  on a cellphone of a party on the other side of the litigation.  And it may be the only place the data is stored.  Depending on the service provider, the period for which the data may be available through them varies greatly.  Below is a brief overview *:

   Verizon  Sprint  T-Mobile  AT&T/Cing  Nextel  Virgin
  Subscriber Information
  3-5 years
  Unlimited 5 years
Depends on Service Period  Unlimited  Unlimited 
  Call Detail
  1 Year
18-24 months  5 years  5-7 years 18-24 months  2 years 
  Text Detail
  1 year
18 months  5 years  5-7 years  18 months  60-90 days 
  Text Content
  3-5 days Not retained  Not retained  Not retained  Not retained  90 days 
  Pictures Only if uploaded to site (customer can delete)  Contact provider  Only if uploaded (customer can delete) or until service is cancelled  Not retained  Contract provider  Not retained 
  IP Session Information
1 year    60 days
Not retained  Only non-public IP's for 72 hours  60 days  Not retained 
  Bill Copies
  3-5 years 7 years  Not retained  5-7 years  7 years  Not retained 
* Keep in mind policies change from time to time.

As indicated above, two categories commonly important to litigation, text message content and pictures, are typically not retained by service providers. They can, however, be obtained via a forensic imaging of their phone, unless the phone has been lost, destroyed, traded in or wiped (which could put the user in more trouble).

Even deleted items may be recovered, depending upon the make of device and how long the deletion activity took place.  Backups of phone data may also exist on an individual's computer that can date back for an extended period of time, which can also be forensically acquired.

Other potentially relevant information that can be obtained from the device via forensic imaging includes GPS information and internet history. Web-based email can also be recovered directly from the internet without the need to obtain the phone, so keep thinking "outside the box"!
Craig Reinmuth

About The Author

Craig Reinmuth is a Certified Public Accountant with over 35 years of experience. He is President of Expert Insights, P.C., a full service litigation support firm providing services to legal communities nationwide. He has testified as an expert witness in Federal District Courts as well as District and Superior Courts in the States of Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada and Wisconsin. Learn more about Craig.

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