Parents must obtain a court order to view their own kids' text messages, but an Arizona lawmaker — and father of seven — is working to change this policy for parents in his home state.
Republican state Sen. Rich Crandall has proposed Senate Bill 1219, a law that would require cellphone companies to turn over the text messages of their under-18 children, the Arizona Republic reported.
The cellphone company could charge a fee for this service, but it would be a drastic change from the current policy, which allows parents to see only the phone numbers that have sent or received texts, but not the messages themselves.
Justifying the bill, Crandall said, "If I have a 13-year-old being harassed via text, I can't call and get those texts. This bill will allow me to at least pay to see the text messages for my children. (Crandall has six daughters and one son.)
The bill has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, but still requires a vote by the full Senate before making its way to the House and then Arizona's governor.
Crandall's bill calls into question how much control parents should have over the digital privacy of their children, and drew opposition from Sen. Judy Burges, a member of the Judiciary Committee who voted against it.
"Why don't you just take a flashlight and go in the closet and read the texts?"
In a statement to MSNBC, Jaime Hastings, vice president of CTIA, the trade industry that represents U.S. wireless carries, said Senate Bill 1219 would conflict with federal law. Hastings also said it would be a logistical nightmare to implement.
"Effectively obtaining consent is quite unworkable," Hastings said. "Moreover, even if consent was obtained, consent does not last indefinitely for all future communications; effective consent can be revoked at any time. Ultimately, there is no way for a wireless provider to know whether consent obtained in the past still applies to text messages sent several months or years later."
"If this law was passed," Hastings continued, "a service provider, once receiving a parental request, would have to either independently obtain consent from a minor child or risk violating either state or federal law."
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