Government Demands for Verizon Customer Data Drop

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The number of subpoenas, total orders and warrants that the United States government delivered to Verizon all dropped in the second half of 2014, according to the company’s latest transparency report.

The giant telecom provider released data on Thursday that showed a decrease in subpoenas of about 10 percent from the first half of last year to the second half. The volume of pen register and trap and trace orders fell by a little less than 10 percent, and the number of warrants served on Verizon by law enforcement also dropped from 14,977 to 13,050.

Verizon officials said in the report that the company received between 0-999 National Security Letters during the second half of 2014, the same range it reported for the first half of the year. The government only allows companies to report the number of NSLs they receive in bands of 1,000. The volume of wiretap orders that Verizon receives remained virtually unchanged from 2013 to 2014, falling slightly from 1,496 in all of 2013 to 1,433.

In addition to releasing the data on government orders, Verizon officials also said that the company has been working on privacy issues throughout the past year.

“While much of our work to protect our customers’ privacy is done behind the scenes, in the past year we took public positions on issues of significance to our customers. We’ve opposed the United States government’s position that it could issue a search warrant to obtain customer emails stored in a Microsoft server in Ireland. We have a particular interest in this issue as we provide cloud computing and data storage services to business customers around the world, including many non-U.S. customers in data centers outside the United States,” said Craig Silliman, executive vice president and general counsel.

“Although Verizon has not received any warrants from the U.S. government for our customers’ information stored in our overseas data centers, we filed briefs in courts and worked with Senators on a bill (The LEADS Act) to help defeat this overreach by the U.S. government. We also continue to support legislation that will add privacy protections to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) statute, including ending bulk collection of communications data.”

In terms of secret orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Verizon said it received between 0-999 FISA orders in the first half of 2014. Those orders targeted between 3,000-3,999 customer selectors, meaning that Verizon definitely received some non-zero number of FISA orders. The government makes companies wait six months before reporting FISA data, so the numbers from the first half of last year are the most recent information Verizon can publish.

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