Verizon Releases Report on Government Info Demands

Verizon says it received just under 140,000 "demands" for U.S. customer information from U.S. law enforcement officials in the second half of 2015, on par with previous half-year totals. Of those, it said it rejected almost 5% for various reasons.

Separately, the company received something under 500 national security demands from the FBI—it is only allowed to report a general range (0-499 in this case). It also received some number of demands from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court but can't report those ranges for six months.

"While we have a legal obligation to provide customer information to law enforcement in response to lawful demands, we take seriously our duty to provide such information only when authorized by law," Verizon said in releasing its latest report, the third year since telecoms were allowed to reveal aggregate totals of requests in various categories.

The company said there are numerous reasons for denying the requests, from believing them legally invalid, from getting requests for info actually held by another provider, to requests for info it does not have (not longer retained, for example).

The total was 139,568 demands, which broke down into 65,633 subpoenas, 33,813 court orders, 14,248 warrants and 25,844 emergency requests

The issue of government data collection has been a hot-button subject in Washington in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks and most recently as Congress has worked on cybersecurity legislation and the U.S. works on coming up with a new safe harbor regime for European data stored in this country.

Given that the U.S. makes demands on a host of companies here and abroad, Verizon points out that their numbers provide an incomplete picture and called on the U.S. government to make public the total number of demands from telecom, Internet and other companies.

The transparency report figures include wireline services—phone, Internet or television—and wireless service.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.