August 11, 2006 9:16 AM PDT

Can texting reveal who committed crimes?

Forensic experts say they are studying how text messages could be linked to crimes.

In a bid to make better use of the data mobile phones contain, psychologists at the University of Leicester in England are researching how individuals can be identified by their texting style.

"The smaller the text message the harder it is to find who said what. The police are able to tell where a phone is by triangulation but not who is holding it," Tim Grant, one of the researchers, told Silicon.com.

"We're trying to get the individual differences in texting styles. That's the basic idea--we know we can do this for longer texts."

The university argues that linguistic analysis can reveal secrets in criminal investigations that may not be obvious.

Researchers plan to recruit at least 100 volunteers to participate in an anonymous Web study.

The volunteers will each be asked to contribute 10 anonymous text messages, which researchers will try to link to the contributer's user ID.

"As texting is both a relatively new mode of communication and a particularly informal way of using language, there is not a strong expectation that texters will follow linguistic conventions," Grant added. "This freedom therefore allows for significant individual differences in text messaging style, and this can be used to identify the text's author."

Dan Itett reported for London-based Silicon.com.

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3 comments

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CrAck 5ci3nt1st5 - h0gWa5h
this is bullcrap
Posted by baswwe (299 comments )
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It's not crap
I frequent a forum every day and can tell who posted what simply by their message style. So the concept is not that difficult to grasp. (In fact, when I want to make an "anonymous" post I change my style on that forum to disguise my true writing style - I start using "U" instead of "you" and so on, and break the lines at odd places, etc). So you see, it's not hogwash.
Posted by Anonymous1234567890 (53 comments )
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interesting
Don't jump to conclusion before viewing all facts. I don't know enough to know for sure whether it is practically possible or not but I studied enough statistics and probability in college to know that it is theoretically possible. Of course, very rarely are things in life 100% certain. But to say that it is 87% to 94% probable that these texts came from this particular account is certainly plausible. It will be up to the jury to decide whether that is enough to make a conviction. But these are certainly good enough odds for the police to follow on with the leads.
Posted by thanhvn (51 comments )
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