When government and law enforcement sought to collect customer data from telecommunication companies, without a court order, these companies obliged, handing over Americans’ personal information, including data concerning our own private phone calls.
Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, released classified documents revealing details about a surveillance program, in which the government gathered and stored daily call information from millions of people in the U.S. and abroad. This revelation led to an immediate public outcry. With pressure mounting from civil liberties groups, public interest advocates and shareholders, AT&T, Verizon, and Credo will now publish annual transparency reports highlighting the government’s request for data collection and the impact it has on the population.
The transparency reports include:
- The number of law enforcement requests for criminal cases
- The number of subpoenas, warrants, and court orders
- The number (but not the identity) of customers who were affected
- Other details, such as requests for information in emergency situations
Credo, the first in the industry to release a transparency report seems to be the most transparent. Releasing all the aforementioned, Credo also itemizes each request by type, by agency making the request, and the state in which the targeted subscriber lives. Credo discloses when data requests resulted in information being given to law enforcement, as well. Verizon’s report excludes the number of customers impacted.
While we are still waiting for AT&Ts report, AT&T plans to omit data on National Security letters, including orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Omitting these two areas could end up being a large portion of the government surveillance requests received each year. This omission may not give us the big picture, but publishing the transparency report is a step in the right direction, in regard to customer privacy.
While in the past it has seemed that telecommunications giants were reluctant to respect privacy, the release of annual transparency reports show that big corporations, such as AT&T and Verizon, with some urging from the public, can make their customer’s privacy a greater priority.