Verizon's Latest Transparency Report Shows U.S. Data Demands Unabated

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2014-07-10 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Verizon on July 9 released its biannual report on requests for customer information from U.S. federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies. The data, which several other wireless companies also released around the same time, highlights the number and kinds of requests firms are hit with by law-enforcement officials. Transparency reports haven't always been the norm in the wireless industry. After former government contract worker Edward Snowden leaked thousands of documents that revealed the enormous scale of the National Security Agency's surveillance of the Internet and phone communications of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, telecom and Web companies started issuing "transparency" reports listing how many demands they received from government law-enforcement and intelligence agencies for customer information. The U.S. government prohibits the release of specifics about what sort of information it demanded. But the Web and communications companies have released what they can to improve transparency with American citizens. Whether it's enough, however, is hotly debated. Verizon's reports have shed some light on what's happening in the wireless industry and how law-enforcement officials are accessing data.

 
 
 
  • Verizon's Latest Transparency Report Shows U.S. Data Demands Unabated

    by Don Reisinger
    1 - Verizon's Latest Transparency Report Shows U.S. Data Demands Unabated
  • Verizon Received Nearly 150,000 Requests for Data

    It was a busy six months for Verizon. During the period from January 1 to June 30, the company received 148,903 requests from law-enforcement agencies. That was made up of subpoenas, court orders, warrants, and emergency requests by law enforcement agencies.
    2 - Verizon Received Nearly 150,000 Requests for Data
  • Total Requests Are Actually Down

    While the nearly 150,000 requests might seem high, the year is on pace to be a bit slower for Verizon than last. During the first half of 2013, Verizon estimated that it received 160,773 requests from law-enforcement agencies. The company noted that in both cases the vast majority of those requests relate to its consumers and "relatively few demands (are) regarding our enterprise customers."
    3 - Total Requests Are Actually Down
  • Wiretaps On Pace for the Year

    Wiretaps, which Verizon describes as a law-enforcement agency requesting to access "the content of communications in real time," were about even with last year. The company received 714 requests in the first half of 2014, compared with 748 during the same period in 2013.
    4 - Wiretaps On Pace for the Year
  • Who Needs a Warrant?

    Warrants were way down in the first half of 2014. Verizon reported that it received approximately 15,000 warrants for customer data during the first half of 2014, down significantly from the more than 18,000 warrants it received in the first half of 2013.
    5 - Who Needs a Warrant?
  • National Security Letters: Probably a Lot

    Here is where we get to the fuzzy math. Due to limits placed on companies by the U.S. government, Verizon is not allowed to say exactly how many national security letters it received. These letters are requests for data made by the government in matters of national security. However, the company can say that the requests were in the range of 0 to 999. That's the same as last year.
    6 - National Security Letters: Probably a Lot
  • Security Letters Targeted Fewer Than 3,000 Customers

    The next line in the transparency report looks at how many Verizon customers were targeted in those national security letters. Again, Verizon cannot provide an exact figure, but could say that it was between 2,000 and 2,999 people. Customers are most often identified by the government by their phone numbers.
    7 - Security Letters Targeted Fewer Than 3,000 Customers
  • FISA? What FISA?

    The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has been a subject of much debate in the privacy world after Edward Snowden's leaks revealed that the government might have used the bill's cover to spy on people both globally and domestically. So inflammatory is FISA, in fact, that the government wouldn't even allow Verizon to report on a range of requests related to the act. According to Verizon, the U.S. government has mandated that companies wait six months before they report FISA information.
    8 - FISA? What FISA?
  • Trap-and-Trace Orders Were Up Year-Over-Year

    Trap-and-trace orders (which allow law-enforcement officials to have real-time access to phone numbers from incoming calls) and pen registers (which provide law enforcement with real-time access to phone numbers as they are dialed), were 3,300 in the first half, up from 3,156 during the same period last year.
    9 - Trap-and-Trace Orders Were Up Year-Over-Year
  • Emergency Requests Were at the Same Level

    Emergency requests, or items that law-enforcement agencies ask of companies "to help resolve serious emergencies, continue to prove extremely popular. In the last six months, more than 24,000 emergency requests have been made, matching the approximate 25,000 that were requested in the same period in 2013. According to Verizon, in order for it to provide information to agencies for emergencies, officers must prove that there is a real emergency that could cause loss of life or any number of bad outcomes.
    10 - Emergency Requests Were at the Same Level
  • Still More Questions Than Answers

    Overall, the Transparency Report Verizon issued on July 9 begs more questions than delivers answers. The general lack of information on FISA is worrisome at the very least. Since the company isn't allowed to share the nature of certain requests, there's no telling exactly how many were warranted—all, none, or some. Unfortunately, no answers are forthcoming, and all we can do is look at these reports and wonder if their data shows good or bad trends.
    11 - Still More Questions Than Answers
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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