AT&T backtracks on transparency report plan; will start publishing in 2014

Transparency is already one of the biggest buzzwords of 2014.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

If 2013 was all about reacting to the scandal spurred by revelations about the National Security Agency, then 2014 is the year where tech giants take a more proactive approach.

At least, that's how they want to spin it to consumers.

The primary method, at least initially, appears to be an abundance of transparency reports.

Following Verizon's lead earlier on Friday, AT&T followed up with an announcement of its own that it plans to publish its first transparency report, revealing the number of government requests for customer information in the countries where the carrier does business.

Set to publish at some point in early 2014, the report is expected to cover all relevant information from 2013.

The decision to publish a transparency report is actually a reversal from what the nation's second largest wireless provider has commented upon recently.

Earlier this month, it was reported based upon a letter obtained by the Associated Press that AT&T said it wasn't required to disclose to investors and shareholders what it does with customer data. The letter was sent to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

However, Wayne Watts, senior executive vice president and general counsel at AT&T, explained in a statement on Friday that "any disclosures regarding classified information should come from the government, which is in the best position to determine what can be lawfully disclosed and would or would not harm national security."

Describing the report plan as both "an update on its position on the government surveillance discussion taking place" as well as being taken to provide more transparency into government requests, Watts outlined that AT&T will provide metrics pertaining to the total number of law enforcement agency requests in criminal cases as well as "details" about legal demands along with the number of customers affected.

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