July 9, 2014
Verizon Issues 2014 Transparency Report Noting 150,000 Government Requests For Customer Info
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Verizon reaffirmed its commitment to transparency on Tuesday and issued its second company transparency report, which covers the first six months of this year. Verizon’s Transparency Report for the First Half of 2014 revealed that the carrier received approximately 150,000 requests for customer information from federal, state or local law enforcement in the United States.
In the report Verizon stated, "We do not release customer information unless authorized by law, such as a valid law enforcement demand or an appropriate request in an emergency involving the danger of death or serious physical injury."
The report for the first half of the year also suggested that government data requests are down; in 2014 Verizon received 321,545 data requests. However, the previous report did not break down government requests for the first half of 2013 but only provided a report for the entire year.
Despite this seemingly large number of requests, Verizon said most customers remain unaffected.
"Although we continue to receive large numbers of demands, the overall percent of our customers affected remains very small," said Randal Milch, general counsel and executive vice president for public policy, law & security at Verizon, in a post on the Verizon policy blog.
"We received more subpoenas than any other type of legal process in the first half of the year in the United States, but those approximately 72,500 subpoenas sought information regarding only approximately one tenth of one percent of our United States customers. Moreover, each subpoena typically seeks information about a small number of customers: ninety percent of the subpoenas sought information about three or fewer customers. In fact, the average number of customers whose information was demanded through a single subpoena was less than two."
According to the report the government issued 72,342 subpoenas – half of which were requests for subscriber information on a specific phone number or IP address, while the other half were requests for transactional information that included numbers a customer may have called.
The report also noted that the carrier received some 37,000 court orders, which included 714 wiretaps. These provided law enforcement with the content of communications and more than 3,000 pen registers and trap and trade orders. This provided real-time access to outgoing and incoming phone numbers.
"We repeat our call for governments around the world to make public the number of demands they make for customer data from telecom and Internet companies," added Milch. "Only governments can provide a comprehensive view of the demands they are making for information. If the United States government can release a report regarding its demands in national security matters, certainly the United States government and other governments can report on the number of demands they make in criminal investigations."
The transparency report noted that Verizon received almost 15,000 warrants in the first half of this year. To obtain a warrant Verizon's report noted that "a law enforcement officer must show a judge that there is 'probable cause' to believe that the evidence sought is related to a crime. This is a higher standard than the standard for a general order. Still, some of the warrants we received in the first half of the year sought the type of information that appears on a customer’s phone bill."
In December it was reported that U.S. law enforcement agencies have submitted more than a million requests per year for data to American mobile carriers since 2010.