Friday, January 11, 2008

But We Did This!

"And there's something else Thompson recommends. Limit a cell phone's abilities. Allow it to make and accept calls to and from parents and 911 only."

Oddly enough, I know of this cellphone company that allowed a parent to do just that, with some other monitoring features. It's defunct now, because it couldn't get its phones into stores.

Also interesting is that the article asks parents, one of whom monitors her children's email and chat logs, why they aren't checking up on phone-calls and text messages. The parents say they do not think about it, but CNN fails to mention a twist here: the parents actually can't while they are happening. While the parents can certainly see on the bill who is calling and texting who and how much, FCC rules forbid any intercepting of text messages. Text messages are considered part of phone communications, and those are actually heavily protected against eavesdropping in the US. I once did an exploration at Disney Mobile to use Disney's enormous and amazing chat-flagging system to warn parents of questionable text conversations their kids might be having (although my angle was bullying since I consider that a far more prevalent problem than sexual predators) and we just couldn't find a structure to make it work. Even if it was just warning the parents without showing the message it would be illegal, I was told by a DC expert on FCC regulations, since (IIRC) he had worked on kids and commercial text-message issues. No eavesdropping, no 3d party recording. Even a machine that was doing any kind of textual processing and alerting of a 3d party based on content was not allowed, never mind a machine doing filtering.

Parents are allowed to demand their kids show them their phones so they can go through the messages stored on the device, but it is far easier to delete those traces on a phone than it is to remove all caches and stores from a PC. We did once hear at DM of Verizon offering an add-on service for a parent to get all the texting logs from a child's phone at the end of the month, but we were all wondering about the legality of that. It certainly could not be done at all in any way as a real-time service like I was thinking.