Comcast Issues First Transparency Report

comcast transparency report

Comcast transparency report reveals government interest in data belonging to customers of the largest American Internet service provider.

Another day, another transparency report from a company trying to put some distance between itself and the United States’ broad surveillance apparatus. Today’s report comes from Comcast, the largest Internet service provider in the U.S., who “takes customer privacy very seriously, and [holds] it in the highest regard.”

The company says their report adheres to the Justice Department’s newer and more relaxed reporting guidelines. Thus, they report their reception of National Security Letters (NSLs) and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders and warrants as well as the corresponding numbers of customer accounts affected in bands of 1000. These guidelines, Comcast says, requires them to report FISA orders and warrants with a six month delay, so this report covers only the first six months of 2013.

The mass media company claims to have received 19,377 subpoenas in the first half of 2013. Subpoenas, the report states, typically seek basic customer account information like names and addresses of customers based on telephone numbers or Internet Protocol (IP) addresses associated with accounts.

The company reported receiving 3,893 general court orders, including 93 pen register and trap and trace orders and just two wiretap requests. Court orders, the report indicates, are signed by a judge and seek more detailed – often historical – information than can be obtained through a subpoena. General orders are those that don’t seek a pen register and trap and trace, which essentially seeks incoming and outgoing call information in real time, or wiretaps, which seek real-time access to the contents of those communications.

They also received 253 content warrants and 1,080 non-content warrants. In all, Comcast received 24,698 total criminal requests.

In addition to these, the company is reporting that it received 961 emergency requests. Such requests differ from those listed above in that they are expedited, generally involving an emergency that poses risk of death or serious physical injury to any person. In these cases, Comcast says that it requires the law enforcement officer to provide “a written certification” describing the imminent risk of danger. Comcast claims it then uses that information to verify emergency requests when possible.

Comcast reported between 0 and 999 requests for all of the following categories: NSLs received and customer accounts affected, content-related FISA orders and warrants and customer accounts affected, and non-content-related FISA orders and warrants and customer accounts affected.

“Like all U.S. businesses, we must respond to valid government requests for customer information made in subpoenas, orders, warrants, and other legal processes,” Comcast said in its report. “Before we respond, we review every request carefully to ensure it is authorized by law and is valid.”


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