Verizon touts its transparency report as a 'first' for a telco

Summary:Verizon's general counsel reveals asserted that telcom providers receive more government demands than those in any other industry.

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In the wake of the revelations about the surveillance practices of the National Security Agency, almost every major tech company is trying to take a more proactive approach towards transparency.

Verizon Wireless has published its very first transparency report, which the nation's largest wireless provider boasted is "the first to be released by a telecommunications company."

Randal Milch, general counsel and executive vice president of public policy at Verizon, posited in a blog post that this report will offer "a constructive addition to the ongoing conversation about privacy and public safety."

Our Report reflects the fact that telecom providers receive more government demands than companies in perhaps any other industry. Information about individuals’ use of their communications equipment has become a uniquely important tool for law enforcement to protect citizens and bring wrongdoers to justice. As such, it should come as no surprise that the number of government demands directed to the major telecom providers is much greater than the number of demands directed to companies that do not offer the same communications services. Overall, we saw an increase in the number of demands we received in 2013, as compared to 2012.

Here are some of the highlights from Verizon's 2013 Transparency Report, covering data requests from law enforcement agencies across more than 150 countries between January 1 and December 31:

  • Verizon received approximately 320,000 requests for customer information from U.S. federal, state or local law enforcement agencies.
  • That included 164,000 subpoenas (usually for customer names and addresses assigned to phone numbers/IP addresses) as well as 70,000 court orders signed by judges. The latter included a subset of 7,800 real-time wiretap orders.
  • Verizon doesn't do nearly as much of a breakdown for International requests, although Germany led with 2,996 requests, followed by France with 1,347 requests and Belgium with 473.
  • Verizon also noted it gets government orders to block access to specified websites outside the United States -- noting that it doesn't receive these requests from the U.S. itself. Colombia led in this regard with demands to block 1,200 websites that were said to lead to child pornography.
  • Verizon admitted it didn't track the percentage of demands to which it responded with "some or no data," but the telco promised it would starting this year.

Verizon said it plans to follow up with updates every six months. A full copy of the report, divided by U.S.-centric and International data, is available online to the public now.

Topics: Government, Legal, Privacy, Telcos, Verizon

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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