Verizon’s Transparency Report Shows Another Rise In US Data Requests

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Verizon reveals the masses of data requests it receives from the US government and law enforcement

Verizon has reported it received 320,000 requests for customer information from federal, state or local law enforcement in the US in the whole of 2013, marking an increase on 2012.

In its first ever transparency report, the telecoms and business IT company said the majority of requests came by subpoena, asking for subscriber information “or the type of information that appears on a customer’s phone bill”. It received 164,000 subpoenas last year.

Edward Snowden privacy protest NSA US Washington © Rena Schild ShutterstockVerizon transparency

Verizon, which was caught up in the Edward Snowden revelations showing it was handing reams of customer data to the National Security Agency, said it also received 70,000 court orders. Most of those orders sought the same basic information by a subpoena request.

There were also 36,000 warrants, including 14,500 for content, as well as 35,000 demands for location data and a significant number of National Security Letters, used for national security matters, not in normal criminal cases.

“We also received between 1,000 and 2,000 National Security Letters in 2013. We are not permitted to disclose the exact number of National Security Letters that were issued to us, but the government will allow us to provide a broad range,” Verizon added.

Another 85,116 emergency requests for information came from law enforcement “in emergency matters involving the danger of death or serious physical injury or from PSAPs [Public Safety Answering Points] relating to particular 911 calls from the public for emergency services”.

Verizon was compelled to issue a transparency report in response to the Snowden leaks, which showed mass spying efforts by the NSA, with the assistance of technology partners.

President Obama announced a number of reforms last week, designed to limit the NSA’s activities, including an end to the collection of all Americans’ telephone records.

He also said permanent gag orders that accompany National Security Letters would also be banned. Yet he was widely criticised for not going far enough.

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