Unlike emails, text messages have a limited lifespan, in that they cease to exist after a period of time. Since the use of text messaging is increasing, it is inevitable that there will be an increase in lawsuits involving text messages. In the financial services sector, text messages are seen as a form of electronic communication and need to be treated like emails with regard to the preservation, review, and approval of messages. It is only a matter of time before all industries are held to this high of a standard.
According to Winchester and Maines writing for The New York Law Journal, “…the party who fails to take appropriate steps to preserve text data and content may face sanctions of spoliation if it can be shown that this information should have been considered reasonably likely to be important at the time it existed.”[i] The strategy of senior executives should be that of preserving corporate profits by mitigating the amount of exposure they have with regard to text messaging.
As citizens we have the right to review what our elected officials are discussing via emails. However, government officials have been able to skirt the public disclosure laws by conducting communications through text messaging. According to a reporter, Erica Barnett, she was unable to obtain the text messages for a Seattle City Council member even though the text messages are subject to the same disclosure laws as emails.[ii] Corporations are responsible for ensuring that all electronic communication can be made readily available to regulators, so why shouldn’t our elected officials be held to such high standards?
In 2010, after inquiries made by taxpayers and the media, some senior city officials and five City Council Members of Bell, CA were involved in a pervasive scandal that swindled millions from the tax payers of Bell. These individuals were paying themselves high salaries and embezzling city funds and they currently face criminal charges. As a result, the state of California wants to put the city in receivership, but the city cannot come to agreement with the state. The State Deputy Attorney General, Jim Hines, stated, “Our main goal has been to ensure accountability and transparency in city management until new elections can be held and to do so without imposing high costs…”[iii] If municipalities were required to have a text messaging compliance software package, our elected officials might think twice before conducting fraudulent activities.
Mobile compliance solutions such as TextGuard’s SMS mobile compliance software allow for the collection and filtering of messages in a compliant manner. This ensures elected officials are held to a high standard where accountability and transparency exists and empowers the everyday citizen to make sure their elected officials act accordingly. It also allows for prosecutors to obtain evidence of any inappropriate, illegal, or unethical behavior.
[i] New York Law Journal, Harvesting Evidence From the Sea of Text Messages, Alan M. Winchester and Russell E. Maines, October 06, 2010
[ii] Publicola, Council Members’ Text Messages Not Subject to Public Disclosure, Erica C. Barnett, Tuesday, February 23, 2010
[iii] Los Angeles Times, Legal fight looms over control of Bell, Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives, October 14, 2010