Verizon exec slams Google, Microsoft, Yahoo for NSA lawsuit grandstanding

Verizon exec slams Google, Microsoft, Yahoo for NSA lawsuit grandstanding

Summary: Verizon says that the issues raised by the Snowden leaks are questions for society, not press releases.


Verizon Enterprise Solutions president John Stratton launched a stinging critique of several US-based IT companies that will sue the National Security Agency (NSA) in order to be able to reveal more about their interactions with the intelligence agency.

Verizon's head of the newly formed Enterprise Solutions unit, John Stratton.
(Imge: Verizon)

In a media briefing in Tokyo, Stratton, the former chief operating officer of Verizon Wireless, said the company is "compelled" to abide by the law in each country that it operates in, and accused companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo of playing up to their customers' indignation at the information contained in the continuing Snowden leak saga.

Stratton said that he appreciated that "consumer-centric IT firms" such as Yahoo, Google, Microsoft needed to "grandstand a bit, and wave their arms and protest loudly so as not to offend the sensibility of their customers."

"This is a more important issue than that which is generated in a press release. This is a matter of national security."

Stratton said the larger issue that failed to be addressed in the actions of the companies is of keeping security and liberty in balance.

"There is another question that needs to be kept in the balance, which is a question of civil liberty and the rights of the individual citizen in the context of that broader set of protections that the government seeks to create in its society."

Verizon found itself in hot water when it came to light that the company was handing over metadata for all calls on its systems on an "ongoing, daily basis". The information handed over to the NSA included routing data, such as the originating and recipient phone number; the IMEI unique phone identifier; the IMSI number used to identify calls on cellular networks; trunk identifiers; phone calling cards; and the time, date, and duration of the calls.

The public revelations of the NSA's actions have created a great debate, the Verizon executive said, and each country will need to create its own balance between civil liberties and the security and protection offered by the state. As such, Stratton said that such decisions reached would not be made by the leadership teams of corporations.

"This is not a question that will be answered by a telecom executive, this is not a question that will be answered by an IT executive. This is a question that must be answered by societies themselves.

"I believe this is a bigger issue, and press releases and fizzy statements don't get at the issue; it needs to be solved by society."

Stratton said that as a company, Verizon follows the law, and those laws are set by governments.

"The laws are not set by Verizon, they are set by the governments in which we operate. I think its important for us to recognise that we participate in debate, as citizens, but as a company I have obligations that I am going to follow."

On the question of Verizon handing such information over to the American intelligence agency, Stratton said that the company takes its obligations very seriously.

"Verizon, like every communications company on the planet, operates in many jurisdictions, and our obligation in operating in those jurisdictions is to comply with the law in those places where we do business. So whether that be in the United States, in the United Kingdom, in Japan, whoever it is that we have a licence with to operate our business, we have these obligations," he said.

"As it relates to the NSA — as has been discussed, the information was conveyed under a very rigorous process that had oversight by all three branches of the United States government."

Stratton claimed that the processes involved to control of the scope of data given to the NSA is under very high scrutiny, that Verizon had never gone beyond offering metadata, and that it is important for the company to hold that line.

"None of the content of customers' communication was revealed by Verizon.

"Verizon is not unique in the world in terms of its need to comply with the laws of the countries in which it operates. These requirements that are put upon it by governments, duly elected governments, are something that we are very careful about, very thoughtful about, and we work vigorously to protect the privacy of our customers data."

Chris Duckett travelled to Tokyo as a guest of Verizon.

Topics: Security, Government US, Privacy, Verizon


Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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  • Solved by society?

    So how is society going to do that if everything is secret?
    • Those who control the content control the mindset of the people

      Microsoft, Yahoo, Google... These companies are big content companies. They are the ears and eyes of the people.

      Rather than grandstanding in court, they could do much more with their content sites to inform the American people of the surveillance issues.

      Instead, we have have internet and content companies that just follow government orders (to hand over your private information), and those companies collect the rewards, and those companies and the government are very happy... unless the people find out what's going on.
      • did you forget they also get gag orders preventing them from talking?

        Their only recourse is to sue.
        • Of course he hasn't forgot.

          That's why he doesn't mention it. :-)
          • And he has probably got a lot of money from the US government

            And he has probably got a lot of money from the US government

            Otherwise I can't explain to be so evil
      • That's WHY they're suing.

        They are suing BECAUSE they are currently forbidden by U.S. law from informing the U.S. people of surveillance issues.
    • It's not secret. The members of congress you voted

      for put it in place.
      Johnny Vegas
      • but congress claims they weren't informed

        I think your forgetting how much of a revelation the snowden leaks were to both congress and americans.. maybe one or two knew what was going on in a proper enough context to understand.. but it looks like they didnt..

        and dont you think we should know when our members of congress make stupid decisions like this and keep them secret from us? how else are we to make informed decisions when voting to replace them?
        • I think the ones that can be trusted to keep

          their big mouths shut know ALOT more, and that's why they're just fine with this trade off. They know the details of events that have been prevented, ones that make 911 look small in terms of both lives lost and economic impact. Multiple. Per year. On US soil. And you can rest assured that the NSA doesn't care what you had for dinner, where you were yesterday, or if you're sleeping with your boss. Unless your boss is trying to procure biological weapons.
          Johnny Vegas
          • Introduction: Johnny, Reality -- Reality, Johnny

            "I think the ones that can be trusted to keep their big mouths shut know ALOT more, and that's why they're just fine with this trade off. They know the details of events that have been prevented"

            Yeah -- they know what the sp00ks have on them, and the details of the mistresses, bribes, etc that have been prevented from coming to light as long as they play ball.

            "And you can rest assured that the NSA doesn't care what you had for dinner, where you were yesterday, or if you're sleeping with your boss."

            Survey Says: BZZZZTTT!!

            LOVEINT: When NSA officers use their spying power on love interests
            Marcus Marik
          • Munged Link

            Marcus Marik
          • trust

            Except it has been released that the NSA HAS in fact shared information with the DEA, the IRS, and the FBI. Remember the IRS, the organization recently accused of targeting "conservative" political groups? 'Cause that HAPPENED already.
      • what tehphar said

        and also, I didn't happen to vote for any of the current crop of a**holes. No one I've voted for won office.
  • Follow the Constitution!

    Hey, Verizon exec, how about you follow the constitution! I don't pay you all that money every month to treat me like some kind of property! You work for me, remember?
  • They are following the constitution.

    This was set up by the Congress that the citizens of the US voted into office and ruled constitutional by the supreme court that was appointed by presidents the US citizens voted for and the citizens of the US have not voted to repeal any of it since. And no he doesn't work for you. He provides a service ad is and you decided to pay to use it. You can choose to switch to another service at any time you want, but unless you move out of the country all your other service choices will be doing the same thing. Don't like it, don't use them. You decide if the benefits outweigh the downside. And keep in mind that google and Facebook have 100x more data about where people are when, what they're looking at and for, and who they're communicating with when, and what they're saying, and they're more than happy to sell it to as many people as will pay them for it without any court order at all.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Everything you say is wrong

      There is debate regarding whether the NSA's programs and the FISA courts have done is covered by the Patriot Act. There is debate, because they won't say what they're doing, so how the hell are you supposed to know?

      Most people in the U.S., despite the four prior NSA leaks and the 2009 congressional hearings were ignorant of these programs. They certainly did not vote for them.

      The Supreme Court has NOT weighed in on the matter. afaik there isn't a legal challenge even close to reaching the Supreme Court on the matter as of yet.

      As for the choice of service, I have to wonder where you live. In most parts of the country, service providers are government enforced monopolies. The majority of people in the US. DO NOT get to choice between AT&T and Verizon for home service.

      Also, it would be highly unlikely that Google or Yahoo share your data. It would undermine their business model. Google and Yahoo sell ACCESS to Google and Yahoo user's screens to advertisers.
  • Trust Verizon, Why?

    Ugh, gee, Verizon exists only to separate me from my money! My cell phone bill three lines went over $225!! And all of a sudden, playing high and mighty? Try again.
  • I would Agree with Verizon Here

    They are following the law. They have a legal obligation to turn over the information the NSA asks for, and to be quiet about it. Do not blame the companies involved in these NSA data raids. If you are really concerned about this, do something. Stand up and say NO! At the very least, demand more transparency in what our spy agencies are doing. If it really is as innocuous as the NSA says, then why not tell us what they are doing? And BTW - Thank Edward Snowden for bringing all this into the light.
    • That doesn't make any sense

      The gag orders may in fact be illegal. Do you know how the legality of the gag orders is established? Yeah, that's right, law suit. That's how the case would end up before a judge in the first place. On top of that, MS, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and the others absolutely have the legal right to challenge these laws in court, in the press, and in congress.

      What makes Verizon complete hypocrites, however, is their stance on net neutrality and the FCC. Verizon is currently suing the government on the premise that they believe the FCC lacks any legal authority to regulate ISPs at all. Which is stupid.
  • and that was my last verizon account canceled

    too bad, i expect a little "grandstanding" from the companies who exist to prove /us/ with service stand up a bit to a warrentless surveilance program.. maybe if verizon had spoken up the first time we would be able to have a more open debate.. but then just maybe verizon fears its part may cost it some money and customers when we learn what they did and how they profited from it.