U.S. Spied on More Than 300,000 AT&T Customers in 2013

Like Verizon, the telecom titan received far more requests for customer data than Internet companies did.

The AT&T Communications Inc. corporate headquarters building is seen March 6, 2006 in San Antonio, Texas.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Add to Briefcase
Dustin Volz
Feb. 18, 2014, 4:53 a.m.

AT&T re­ceived 301,816 de­mands for cus­tom­er data from loc­al, state, and fed­er­al law-en­force­ment of­fi­cials in 2013, the com­pany an­nounced Tues­day in its first-ever trans­par­ency re­port.

AT&T’s re­port comes a month after Ve­r­i­zon an­nounced com­par­able num­bers, mak­ing it the first ma­jor phone com­pany to di­vulge such de­tailed stat­ist­ics on the gov­ern­ment’s ac­cess to cus­tom­er re­cords.

Like Ve­r­i­zon, the num­ber of data de­mands re­ceived by AT&T trump those is­sued to In­ter­net com­pan­ies such as Google and Mi­crosoft.

The tele­com gi­ant also re­leased, in gov­ern­ment-man­dated bands of 1,000, the num­ber of sur­veil­lance re­quests it fielded in 2013. The gov­ern­ment last year sent AT&T between 2,000 and 2,999 na­tion­al se­cur­ity let­ters that af­fected between 4,000 and 4,999 ac­counts.

Between Jan. 1 and June 30 of last year, AT&T also handled between zero and 999 re­quests for cus­tom­er con­tent  as pre­scribed un­der the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Act, which col­lect­ively en­com­passed between 35,000 and 35,999 ac­counts. Ad­di­tion­ally, up to 999 re­quests for non-con­tent were pro­cessed dur­ing the same peri­od, which in­volved up to 999 ac­counts.

In­ter­net com­pan­ies in­clud­ing Google and Face­book have pushed for the right to dis­close more in­form­a­tion about gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance of their users. The tele­com gi­ants have been more muted in their calls for great­er trans­par­ency.

Pres­id­ent Obama last month an­nounced a pack­age of gov­ern­ment-sur­veil­lance re­forms that in­cludes a con­tro­ver­sial ef­fort to move the stor­age of phone re­cords from with­in the gov­ern­ment to the pur­view of phone com­pan­ies or some hy­po­thet­ic­al, un­defined third party. The tele­com lobby has ex­pressed skep­ti­cism about the former idea, while the lat­ter re­mains largely spec­u­lat­ive.

San Fran­cisco-based CREDO Mo­bile be­came the first tele­com ser­vice to re­lease a trans­par­ency re­port on gov­ern­ment data re­quests in early Janu­ary.

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