Privacy

Yahoo! and Verizon: How Much Do the Feds Pay Us to Help Them Spy On You? You Don't Wanna Know!

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Or, rather, they don't want you to know. From Wired.com:

Want to know how much phone companies and internet service providers charge to funnel your private communications or records to U.S. law enforcement and spy agencies?

That's the question muckraker and Indiana University graduate student Christopher Soghoian asked all agencies within the Department of Justice, under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed a few months ago. But before the agencies could provide the data, Verizon and Yahoo intervened and filed an objection on grounds that, among other things, they would be ridiculed and publicly shamed were their surveillance price sheets made public.

Yahoo writes in its 12-page objection letter (.pdf), that if its pricing information were disclosed to Soghoian, he would use it "to 'shame' Yahoo! and other companies — and to 'shock' their customers."

"Therefore, release of Yahoo!'s information is reasonably likely to lead to impairment of its reputation for protection of user privacy and security, which is a competitive disadvantage for technology companies," the company writes.

So, knowing how little you protect user privacy and security might impair your reputation for protecting user privacy and security, Yahoo!? Well, I certainly can't argue with that.

Verizon took a different stance. It objected to the release (.pdf) of its Law Enforcement Legal Compliance Guide because it might "confuse" customers and lead them to think that records and surveillance capabilities available only to law enforcement would be available to them as well — resulting in a flood of customer calls to the company asking for trap and trace orders.

"Customers may see a listing of records, information or assistance that is available only to law enforcement," Verizon writes in its letter, "but call in to Verizon and seek those same services. Such calls would stretch limited resources, especially those that are reserved only for law enforcement emergencies."

Other customers, upon seeing the types of surveillance law enforcement can do, might "become unnecessarily afraid that their lines have been tapped or call Verizon to ask if their lines are tapped (a question we cannot answer)."

I say to Mr. Soghoian: Shock and shame, baby. Shock and shame!

[Hat tip: John Kluge]