Verizon: 321,545 requests for customer info

The transparency figures on requests for consumer information encompass Verizon's wireless and legacy phone businesses and FiOS Internet.
The transparency figures on requests for consumer information encompass Verizon's wireless and legacy phone businesses and FiOS Internet. (JIN LEE / Bloomberg)
Posted: January 25, 2014

The nation's largest wireless phone company, which also has millions of FiOS Internet and landline phone customers, had 321,545 requests for customer information from federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies in 2013, Verizon Communications Inc. said this week in its first "transparency report."

Verizon did not say how much actual information it turned over to law enforcement for police investigations, only the requests.

The 2013 number was 24 percent higher than the 260,000 requests in 2011, which Verizon previously disclosed in a letter to then-Rep. Edward J. Markey (D., Mass.) in May 2012.

The majority of people have no idea that their information had been requested from Verizon, experts said.

Verizon, facing customer concerns over secret government data collection, has said it will regularly disclose law-enforcement requests for customer information in reports similar to those by Internet companies Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

Comcast Corp., the nation's largest residential Internet provider with a big phone business, has said it is evaluating whether it would release a similar transparency report.

Civil liberties groups praised Verizon's report - the first by a major telecommunications company - but also said there were big holes in the data.

Verizon did not report the number of customer requests for information by the National Security Administration, whose data collection was leaked to news outlets by government contractor Edward Snowden in 2013. Verizon noted that it was not permitted to release the national security-related data.

Verizon's report lets the "American public better understand the extent of the surveillance state," said Nate Cardozo, staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, a nonprofit digital civil rights organization.

Harley Geiger, senior policy counsel with the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit public interest organization, said the number of law-enforcement requests for information was "certainly striking and indicative of how digital services are reshaping law-enforcement investigations."

Verizon's report said that law-enforcement agencies requested 1,496 wiretaps in 2013 and 50,000 emergency requests for information - both part of the overall 321,545 in requests.

About half the requests were subpoenas in which a law-enforcement agency could request from Verizon a customer name, address, telephone or subscriber number, length of time as a customer, calling records and payment records.

Verizon also said it processed about 36,000 warrants, signed by judges, that could allow police officers access to stored digital content.

The transparency figures encompass Verizon's wireless business, legacy phone business and FiOS Internet. Verizon said in its 2012 letter to Markey, now a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, that it had a staff of 70 employees who handled requests for information from law-enforcement agencies.


BY THE NUMBERS

321,545

Total requests

for customer information that Verizon received in 2013 from federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies.

1,496

Wiretaps requested that were included

in that total.

50,000

Emergency requests for information

that were included

in that total.


bfernandez@phillynews.com

215-854-5897 @bobfernandez1

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