Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team
Phone records can be a massive insight into a person’s personal dealings, so it’s no surprise that they’re often used in court cases.
They can outline a person’s text messages, phone calls, when and where a call was made, the network provider and when any data has been transferred.
All the data of a phone’s activity is available to you if you ask the phone company to hand it over to you, assuming you’re still in the time frame of when they maintain their records.
The difference between this type of data and other kinds of data is that call detail records or (CDR) are not protected via the Stored Communications Act, nor are they protected under your Fourth Amendment rights.
The way to access them is via a subpoena or if the account holder asks for them through a letter that has been notarized.
What Do These Call Records Show?
Call detail records can show the person who made the request, the caller’s telephone number along with how long the call was and which call tower the phone used.
Meta-data of text messages are also seen, but not the wording within the texts.
The data will show all attempts that a caller tried to make to a number, even if the calls were never connected.
Where the call tower was when the person made the calls is also available for any call that a person wishes to know about.
Regarding text message data, as no message content will be shown through call detail records – to obtain the actual content is a bit more complicated.
You must ask for this data within a few days after the message was sent.
The definition of text message is key too, as some companies will not recognize things like iMessages as a text message.
iMessages use encryptions and are sent as a data message rather than a text (meaning they require data or wi-fi connections to send).
Effectively, if you’re looking for content of an iMessage, you’re out of luck – because the cell phone company will not have the content to hand. It’s neither data nor a text message, unfortunately.
You can’t even apply to Apple to have this data, because although they have the ability to decrypt these encrypted messages, they’re not obliged to via Federal or state law – and there’s a whole host of privacy related issues, even if they did!
The only person who could decrypt this data and readily hand it over is the recipient of the message, but in many instances, they may not wish to do so.
Telephone Bills Versus Call Detail Records
Phone bill details aren’t entirely accurate. If you made a call of 1 minute and 3 seconds for example, the bill would show up as a 2 minute call.
Additionally, if a call is never connected to the other cellphone, this will not come up on the bill.
How Do You Interpret This Data?
It’s very difficult in law to interpret this data. For example, if a call was made when somebody was driving and an accident occured – you’d think you can use this data for evidence that the person was using their phone during the accident.
The problem is, this isn’t always the case as the data cannot confirm who was using it, and as we’ve seen – it doesn’t necessarily prove the correct duration of time that the call was.
We’ve also seen that text message content data may not be able to be received and you cannot prove much with the times an outgoing text message was sent.
When it comes to court cases, an expert in this field should be able to interpret other data such as the telephone connection tower and determine the location of the person for certain cases.
Can The Cops Examine Data From Your Phone?
The Supreme Court ruled that, without a warrant – the police can’t just access a person’s phone records.
If they have arrested you in a specific case and examine through forensics, all of your gadgets and technology – they can find everything that was or is on the phone, but will still have the limitations of phone records that you do (through things like text content and encryption etc.).
Can I Access My Phone Records Online?
Most network providers will have the function to allow you to access your phone records online, normally through your digital account – assuming you’ve set one up.
This data may be limited and may only cover up to 12 months worth of information.
If you have trouble accessing any data online, it’s worth calling the network provider and asking for the information that you’re trying to access.
They may send these details via email or in the post. You may also get some help by asking the network provider how to set up your online account, if this is causing you problems.
What About Using My Phone For My Records?
Unless you’re talking about accessing your records through a cell phone app or by accessing the website through your mobile phone browser, you’ll be very limited to the type of data you’ll be able to see.
With most android phones, you can see your call length, the date and time and who/what number you called.
The trouble is, you can’t normally retrieve deleted data unless you can reset your phone to the specific time and details you were looking for.
Additionally to this, iPhones tend to wipe all data from the phone’s system after a set amount of call logs have been made. More to the point, you can wipe the call history by pressing two buttons.
Important Information Of Access
Due to privacy laws, a person that can access these records must be the person who is the account holder or through a subpoena – which may be rejected.
Moreover, the police cannot access this data without either probable cause or with a warrant. So, if you’re hoping for access to other people’s phone records – you’ll likely struggle.
In the event of someone’s death, for whatever reason – you may wish to access phone records.
It might be difficult if you do not have access through the person’s lasting will, or if you aren’t a power of attorney (even then it might not happen!)
The basic principle to know is that phone records can be accessed but they are limited, and the people able to access them are also limited. If you’re concerned, it’s worth speaking with an attorney.