I woke up on November 7th to a number of confusing messages and missed calls from two people in my contacts list. Among the texts were “What?!”, “I’m so confused” and a “Did you mean to text me?”. I had no idea what they were talking about – I had not reached out to either in the past week at least. Both explained that I had sent them messages (and even sent screenshots to prove it) but for some reason my phone was not showing I sent them anything at all.
I came into work and mentioned it to my colleagues while being panicked that it was a potential issue with my phone. I was preparing for my phone to turn Smart House and take on a mind of its own. Later in the day I came across an article showing that I was not the only one this happened to.
The cause wasn’t immediately clear because the texts were not limited to Android or iPhone and couldn’t be isolated to one provider either. One thing that was clear pretty quickly was that most of the messages that went through were initially sent on February 14th of this year.
Eventually it was found that this was all caused by a company called Syniverse, which provides text messaging services to various mobile providers. The issue stems from a server malfunction that happened on February 14th while messages were in queue to be sent. The server was not reactivated again until November 7th, which caused all of those messages to finally reach the intended parties.
It probably couldn’t have happened on a worse day. I imagine there were some special Valentine’s Day messages sent that are no longer applicable 9 months after the fact. Worse than that, there are some reports of people getting texts from loved ones who have since passed away.
Perhaps the biggest question is how long does Syniverse store our messages? And what are the regulations on data protection and storage for similar third party providers?