Bad text. Texting a danger to security that we cannot afford to sweep under the rug.

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State Representative Haraz N. Ghanbari, R-Perrysburg, represents the 75th House District, which encompasses nearly all of Wood County.

In 1959, Volvo Cars launched the 122S and introduced the three-point seatbelt.

In 1959, fewer than 10% of cars had seatbelts. Because of Volvo’s innovation, by 1968 seatbelts were legally required in all cars sold in the US. The three-point seatbelt singlehandedly made driving safer for everyone. 

What do seat-belts have to do with text messages?   Like driving, texting is part of Americans’ everyday lives.

The ‘seatbelt-less cars of the messaging world’ 

We send over 2 trillion text messages every year, according to CTIA, a trade association for the U.S. wireless communications industry.  

We text more than we call. Like driving, texts are vulnerable to a variety of safety risks. And like driving, at least in 1959, safety solutions are widely available.  

Most texts today are sent via a standard called SMS shorthand for Short Message Service, a technology that has barely evolved since it was introduced in 1992. These are the seatbelt-less cars of the messaging world. 

SMS texts can’t be encrypted. If they’re intercepted, their contents are readable.

In other words, they’re about as safe as a postcard in the mail.

SMS shortfalls can lead to real life danger

SMS’ limitations cause blurry images and broken group chats. They’re unable to tell you when a text has been received and read. In a dangerous situation, someone is in distress and can’t speak, we need to trust that texts can paint a picture of the scene.

SMS comes up short. 

It may sound strange to think of texts’ shortcomings as a public safety issue, but if two trillion cars were on the road without seatbelts, would we consider them to be a public safety risk? Yes.

We’re facing the same situation today with text messaging.   Most people have experienced SMS’s failures at some point.

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When an iPhone and a phone that uses the Android operating system exchange texts they use SMS. Apple’s iPhone has about 60% of the U.S. market, Android has about 40%. The odds that you’ll exchange a text across these platforms, either 1 on 1, or in a group a text, are pretty high. 

New standard should be supported for text

The technology to improve texting has existed for years.

Google has supported a newer texting standard for a long time, RCS, the three major telecommunications firms in the nation now use it on Android phones, and Apple announced they would as well by the end of the year.

Legislation that would help this transition should also be looked at.  

It’s tempting to avoid rocking the boat.

SMS has stood the test of time because it gets the job done for practically all users, regardless of the phone they have or where they live. But we can do better, and the infrastructure to do so is coming together.  

The Ohio legislature must continue to have policy debates about the newest questions in tech security.

The industry is in the midst of an AI revolution: how do we ensure those systems will remain safe and help humanity thrive? These are big, abstract policy questions that we’re only starting to think about as a society. That’s why I’m proud to be leading the effort to make texting safer in Ohio.   

Think about it this way, if we can make texting safer, we would address the biggest security vulnerability in modern technology. We’ve made a grave and costly mistake to sweep this problem under the rug for decades. It’s time to make the 2 trillion texts we send every day safer for everyone.