Verizon transparency report reveals increase in US government data requests

By Sooraj Shah
23 Jan 2014 View Comments
verizon

The US government made a total of 320,000 requests for customer information from American telecoms giant Verizon throughout 2013.

The total marks an increase on the number of requests made to Verizon in 2012 by federal, state or local law enforcement in the US.

Further reading

Last year, documents from whistleblower and former National Security Agency (NSA)-contractor Edward Snowden suggested that the NSA had been collecting telephone communications records of millions of Verizon customers in the US.

The Guardian claimed that the report suggests that the records are being kept on an "ongoing, daily basis", with the NSA collecting communications between Verizon customers within the US, and all other countries, regardless of suspicion of criminal activity.

The company, which is prohibited from revealing any information about the NSA links because the information is detailed in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders, has attempted to give the public more details on its dealings with the government with its first transparency report.

It follows the long line of companies including Google, Facebook and Yahoo to publish reports on their dealings with government information requests. Many of the companies have gone to the courts in an attempt to get permission to reveal even more data on how they are co-operating with the NSA and other intelligence agencies. They have so far failed in their attempts to do so.

In the report, Verizon stated that it received between 1,000 and 2,000 national security letters - requests for information in national security matters - from the FBI. But it was not permitted to disclose the exact figure. These requests are not the same as the information Verizon may provide to the NSA.

The telecoms firm said it received 70,000 court orders, the majority of which were "general orders" for basic information. About 7,800 were pen or trap orders and wiretap orders which require Verizon to provide access to data in real-time.

Verizon said it received about 36,000 warrants last year, with 14,500 of these being for ‘stored content' which refers to the text messages or emails stored through the mobile operator's network.

It also received 85,116 emergency requests for information from law enforcement in emergency matters involved the danger of death or serious physical injury or from PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Points) relating to particular 911 calls from the public for emergency services.

In a blog post, Randal Milch, Verizon EVP of public policy and general counsel, added to calls for the US government to "make public the number of demands they make for customer data from telecommunications and internet companies".

He said that this would provide a more complete picture of government action, particularly as most telecoms and internet firms around the world are not publicly reporting this information.

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