Verizon: 150k gov't requests for data so far this year

Verizon says that it complied with the overwhelming majority of the requests it received

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
July 8, 2014
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Technology companies seemed to get the brunt of the pain after all of the revelations came out about the NSA and it's shady shenanigans. That has manifested itself into a whole bunch of them, including Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo, releasing privacy reports over the last couple of years to prove that they are not simply handing over all of their user's data and information.

Let's not forget, though, that the government not only targets tech companies for information about customers, but telecommunications companies as well.

That is why Verizon has taken the leads and begun to release its own set of reports on what the government has been asking for. The first one came out at the beginning of this year, and encompassed the entirety of 2013; and now the company has released the second of those reports, covering the first half of this year.

In the last six months alone, Verizon revealed that it had just less than 150,000 requests for data from federal, state and local law enforcement in the United States. 

That included over 72,000 subpoenas, 14,000 warrants, and almost 25,000 emergency requests. There were also over 37,000 courts order, including 3,300 Pen Registers/ Trap & Trace Orders and 714 wiretap orders.

In all, Verizon said it only rejected 3% of subpoenas, as well as 4.5% of order and warrants for being "legally invalid." That may not, however, include all of the requests that were turned down.

"There are a number of additional reasons why we would not produce some or all of the information sought by a demand, although we do not consider these 'rejected' demands and do not calculate the number of times these occur," Verizon said.

That can include data that the company simply doesn't have, or collect, or a request that is "overly broad."

While 150,000 might seem like a lot of requests, it may actually be down from last year. In all of 2013, Verizon received 321,545 requests, or 160,773 for each half of the year. In fact, all numbers are down, except for the number of court order, which rose from 31,429.

Those numbers are slightly misleading, though. As Ed McFadden, a Verizon spokesman, explained to me, the decrease in requests in 2014 were, in part, due to the fact that the report has only been issued once before and therefore cannot not reflect half-year to half-year comparisons. 

Since Verizon only released the complete numbers from 2013 in its first report, and did not break it down into how many requests came in the first half versus the second half. There’s no way to compare the first half of 2013 to the first half of 2013. It will not be until the next report, which is to be released in January 2015, that the Verizon reports will reflect a true comparison. 

In addition to the above numbers, Verizon also released information regarding FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) requests, which come from national security agencies. The information, though, is less than informative.

"We note that while we now are able to provide more information about national security orders that directly relate to our customers, reporting on other matters, such as any orders we may have received related to the bulk collection of non-content information, remains prohibited," said Verizon.

What that means is that the company can only give a range for how many FISA orders, and National Security Letters, it received.  In all, Verizon said it got between 0 and 999 NSLs and FISA orders. That is the same as both halves of last year,  but still tells us almost nothing.

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