AT&T Releases Transparency Data On Government Requests For Customer Data

Today AT&T joined Verizon in releasing data concerning government requests for its customer information. Verizon released similar data in January. A host of technology companies have done the same.

In 2013, AT&T received between 2,000 and 2,999 National Security Letters, impacting 4,000 to 4,999 customer accounts. Verizon, for comparison, received “between 1,000 and 2,000” National Security Letters in the same period.

In the first half of 2013 (as The Hill notes, there is a Department of Justice limit on what they can disclose in this specific context) AT&T received somewhere between 0 and 999 requests under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for user data that impacted between 35,000 and 35,999 accounts. Non-data requests under FISA were fewer than a thousand, and impacted fewer than a thousand accounts.

Verizon and AT&T are quite similar in terms of the quantity of requests that they field from the government. AT&T had 301,816 self-titled “Criminal & Civil Litigation Demands” in 2013. Verizon had “approximately 320,000 requests for customer information from federal, state or local law enforcement” in the same year.

In related news, the NSA is expected to report proposed reforms to its telephone metadata program this week. Also, James Clapper, current Director of National Intelligence, recently said the following:

“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11—which is the genesis of the 215 program—and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards… We wouldn’t have had the problem we had.”

Increased disclosure, reform ideas, and something close to contrition? Be still my beating Snowden. (Not that any of the above is sufficient. But progress of a sort is progress, and we’ll just have to win by inches on this.)