Recently, a University of Ottawa law professor reviewed a set of documents from the Canadian government showing that law enforcement agencies were asking their country’s telecom operators for subscriber information every 27 seconds.
Brian Fung at the Washington Post then looked back at the 2013 transparency reports from major U.S. phone companies and found that AT&T and Verizon together received more than one request every 60 seconds. In their first-ever transparency reports, Verizon and AT&T combined received an equivalent of 1.2 requests every minute:
- AT&T reported receiving 301,816 requests for user data from state, local and federal authorities.
- Verizon reported receiving 321,545 requests for user data from state, local and federal authorities.
These numbers don’t include other telecom operators in the United States since they haven’t disclosed information on government data requests. Last year, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile submitted responses with 2012 data to a congressional probe on data requests by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.):
- AT&T’s mobile division got 562,000 requests for user information
- Verizon reported around 270,000
- T-Mobile reported 297,350
Then again, it is highly likely that AT&T and Verizon are not disclosing everything that they are handing over to the NSA. These are the same companies who broke the law several years ago by helping the government spy on citizens without a warrant. The laws have changed since then giving the telecom carriers immunity.
Now the White House is pushing to ensure that all of the bills contain provisions protecting telcos from legal harm for their ongoing cooperation in the NSA programs. Why would they want this? Because some of the “reforms” being circulated would actually expand AT&T and Verizon’s role in data gathering activities. Now they would be given the job of holding additional userdata instead of the NSA.