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T-Mobile quietly reveals how many government data demands it gets

The cellular giant becomes the latest (and the last major telco) to issue a transparency report, albeit without fanfare and before a major US holiday.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
(Image: CNET/CBS Interactive)

Quietly and without a fuss ahead of a long-holiday weekend to celebrate US freedom and independence, T-Mobile finally disclosed how many times in the past two years it had been demanded to fork over its customers' data to the government.

The Bellevue, Wash.-based phone company released late Wednesday its debut transparency report, long after its rivals had issued similar reports.

It came just two weeks after a T-Mobile spokesperson said a transparency report was "something we are considering," but declined to offer a timeline.

The company trailed behind Amazon, which was the last major tech company in the Fortune 500 to reveal how many times the government had demanded customer data from the company. (Although companies are under no legal obligation to disclose figures, the retail giant had been under pressure from privacy groups to disclose them in the wake of mass surveillance leaks over the past two years.)

As for T-Mobile's numbers, in the most recent full year of 2014 it received 351,940 requests for customer or network information, an 11 percent increase on the year prior.

T-Mobile received 177,549 subpoenas, and 17,316 warrants. The company also received 3,087 wiretap demands for real-time audio or content that can be authorized for up to 30 days.

By comparison, Verizon received 1,433 wiretap orders for 2014, and AT&T received 2,420 orders. T-Mobile said the report also includes MetroPCS' figures, which the company acquired in 2013.

As for national security requests, which the company is only allowed to report in numerical bands of 250, the company said it received between 2,000 and 2,250 national security requests, including orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. (The figure wasn't broken down to content or non-content data, however.)

T-Mobile spokesperson Tolena Thorburn said in a brief emailed statement: "We have been considering it and determined that this was the appropriate time to release our report."

The company will be reporting its figures annually, Thorburn confirmed.

Correction: T-Mobile's report was quietly published Wednesday, not Thursday. The post has been updated.

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