The primary issue was NFL quarterback Tom Brady’s destruction of his cellphone surrounding the Inflate-gate controversy and his recent suspension.
Prior to his hearing before the NFL, Brady physically destroyed his cellphone and was able to avoid disclosing his text messages which were suspected to contain incriminating information. The question was whether that really destroyed his text messages.
It’s a rather interesting question because people don’t often think about how different types of communications are stored whether it’s email, text or instant messages. With our concerns over security, hacking, and privacy, it’s important to better understand how these platforms work to address the risks we face.
How Emails are Stored
Emails are always stored on a server which retains the emails even if the device that received or read the emails is destroyed. This is how emails can be retrieved from multiple devices simultaneously. Depending on the mail server’s rules, old emails generally remain available until they are permanently deleted. They also exist on the sender’s email box and any of the Cc and Bcc recipients.
How Text Messages are Stored
Text Messages do not have the same permanence as emails. They exist on the sending and receiving devices until they are deleted. The phone company that transmits the text message also retains the message. At a minimum, they need to retain it until they successfully transmit it since the receiving device may be unavailable. It can take multiple attempts and multiple days before the message is transmitted.
After that, the phone company has no requirement to retain the message. The text message only exists on the sending and receiving devices.
However, some phone companies, like Verizon, offer text messages that can be read online. The messages are available online even after the message is received by the phone. That means the phone company is playing the role of a text message server. They may exist there for months, which means it remains a repository if the device is destroyed.
So if you think your text messages only exist on yours and the other party’s device, you may want to check your mobile phone provider (and that of the other party) to understand their policies.
Unfortunately, Fox did not release an online copy of the interview, so we can’t share it.