Communications data records - SMS
Country by country retention of various communications and subscriber data varies at around 1-2 years.
Does the data records include SMS phone numbers RECEIVED?
Are you talking about message content or the numbers associated with incoming messages?
All providers have the ability to provide an SMS log and the retention period for those communications will vary depending on the carrier. The log will show the 10 digit identifier for the sending and receiving parties handset. Only one company to my knowledge still retains SMS content and the only way you get it it to preserve it and then follow up with a search warrant. Two things to consider if you are issuing legal process. 1. Always ask for an MMS log as well. Depending on routing you will likely find some of the sms transactions in the MMS log. 2. If the communications were iMessage then you’ll get no record of the communications.
I'm talking about call detail records (CDR). The metadata but not the content. Various jurisdictions have different rules about how long CDRs are retained for.
My question is - in call detail records for a particular cell number, does the data include SMS messages RECEIVED?
I can't definitively say that all US based carriers have SMS data in their call detail reports. You would also want to request the SMS log specifically. In addition to the SMS log you also want to request the MMS log as well. As I mentioned when two iPhones are iMessage enabled and communicating with each other you will not be able to receive a log file of those communications. However, if one of those iPhones sends a group text to a recipient who has a device which is not iMessage enabled then the iOS device routes the communication as an MMS. I've not confirmed this, but I was told once that the "MMS Routing" could possibly be activated if someone were to send out a text message that was extremely long as well.
Retention periods vary from carrier to carrier and report to report. Some hold CDRs for up to 7 years (AT&T) and some hold onto them for only 1 year (US Cellular). We keep track of all of the US based cell phone carriers retention periods as it pertains to the various records on our free support site [email protected] It's free for investigators (LE and private sector) so feel free to register and take a look at it!