Transparency

The Government Really Can Hear You Now: Verizon Releases First Transparency Report

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Verizon
Verizon

Verizon wireless has released its first ever transparency report revealing how many demands from law enforcement for information about its customers the company received in 2013. in total: 321,545 such demands. How many such demands were warrants based on probable cause? Just 36,696 of them. 

Under what circumstances does the company provide information about the content of its customers' communications, stored data and locations?

Content. We are compelled to provide contents of communications to law enforcement relatively infrequently. Under the law, law enforcement may seek communications or other content that a customer may store through our services, such as text messages or email. Verizon only releases such stored content to law enforcement with a warrant; we do not produce stored content in response to a general order or subpoena. Last year, we received approximately 14,500 warrants for stored content. 

As explained above, law enforcement may also present a wiretap order to obtain access to the content of a communication as it is taking place, which they did about 1,500 times last year. Taken together, the number of orders for stored content and to wiretap content in real-time accounted for only about five percent of the total number of demands we received in 2013.

Location Information.  Verizon only produces location information in response to a warrant or order; we do not produce location information in response to a subpoena. Last year, we received about 35,000 demands for location data: about 24,000 of those were through orders and about 11,000 through warrants. In addition, we received about 3,200 warrants or court orders for "cell tower dumps" last year. In such instances, the warrant or court order compelled us to identify the phone numbers of all phones that connected to a specific cell tower during a given period of time. The number of warrants and orders for location information are increasing each year.

Oddly, the Feds will not let the company tell us the exact number of National Security Letters that it receives. NSLs cannot be used to obtain information about the contents of communications, but the FBI need not go to a court to issue an NSL.

We also received between 1,000 and 2,000 National Security Letters in 2013. We are not permitted to disclose the exact number of National Security Letters that were issued to us, but the government will allow us to provide a broad range.

Apparently, knowing just how many NSLs the FBI issues will empower enemies domestic and foreign.

It's way past time to rein in government snooping by reforming the Electronic Privacy Communications Act to apply Fourth Amendment protections to our electronic communications and data storage.

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    1. So did Omar.

        1. You come at the king, you best not miss.

  1. 36,696

    Huh, too bad the number wasn’t 32,767. That would tell me their request limit was a two byte signed number.

    1. two byte signed number

      To accommodate for a negative number of requests?

        1. WORD.

          That’s an incredibly nerdy Pascal joke for the 99.9% of you who won’t get that.

            1. Thankfully I wore my tear-away wedgie-proof underwear today. It’s even luckier than usual because normally I don’t wear underwear. You can keep those, Hugh. Skid marks and all.

              1. Chicks dig me because I don’t usually wear underwear, but when I do , it’s usually something unusual. Do you have something in a lowrise, mesh if possible.

          1. Isn’t pascal the color of everything in Arizona?

            1. Just in the painted desert, everywhere else its simply beige.

              1. well, there’s phoenix

  2. Doug Thompson, publisher of Capitol Hill Blue, was put on the no-fly list and picked up a NSL to boot after sharp criticism of the Bush gestapo.

    President George W. Bush has signed executive orders giving him sole authority to impose martial law, suspend habeas corpus and ignore the Posse Comitatus Act that prohibits deployment of U.S. troops on American streets. This would give him absolute dictatorial power over the government with no checks and balances.

    Bush discussed imposing martial law on American streets in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks by activating “national security initiatives” put in place by Ronald Reagan during the 1980s.

    These “national security initiatives,” hatched in 1982 by controversial Marine Colonel Oliver North, later one of the key players in the Iran-Contra Scandal, charged the Federal Emergency Management Agency with administering executive orders that allowed suspension of the Constitution, implementation of martial law, establishment of internment camps, and the turning the government over to the President.

    http://rense.com/general69/control.htm

    Those were the heady days of non-criticism of the Bush Administration. Retribution was in order if you did.

    Too bad the NSLs became part of our bullshit BigBroGov.

    1. Those were the heady days of non-criticism of the Bush Administration. Retribution was in order if you did.

      Otherwise known as the last time Shreeeek every had a problem with government.

  3. The Supreme Court refusing the hear the challenge to the retroactive immunity given to the telcos circa 2008, when they violate our constitutional rights in collusion with the government, is up there among the worst things the Court did (or failed to do) over the last 15 years.

    I wonder if there’s any chance they might revisit that issue.

    Is there any reason why a new party can’t bring the same challenge to the same law?

    1. Is it just me, or am I wrong for being willing to give the telcos a pass on this immunity issue?

      Why should anyone be held liable for something the government forces you to do upon pain of imprisonment or death?

      1. Yeah, that was my thought as well. If the government walked up to a guy and said “Hey, see that guy over there? Go kick his ass or we’ll throw you in jail”, is that guy really morally culpable? And I think he’d be even less culpable from a purely legal standpoint.

        OTOH, removing telco immunity would put enormous political pressure on the government, because the telcos would be royally pissed.

        1. I’d rather remove judge immunity for issuing all those warrants in the first place. particularly the “wide-sweep” ones.

      2. No, you’re not wrong. Not much you can do when presented with a warrant. If they were just giving them cart blanc access to records and content with no warrant that would be different. Sounds like they are doing only what is required by law and no more.

      3. Assuming that what they’re forced to do isn’t too repugnant, I agree with you. And that’s the case with the telcos. However, if someone was told to go murder 50 people or they’d get thrown in jail, it starts to become a different equation.

        The telcos don’t have a lot of choice here, and so it’s completely reasonable to blame the government 100% for this bullshit, because it has been 100% instigated by the government.

        1. This is horseshit.

          And even if it wasn’t, why would this suddenly change?

          If individuals could sue corporations for actively violating an individual’s rights before, why should that change for Telcos in 2008?

          And why should the Supreme Court uphold that change?

          Why should the Supreme Court uphold a law that says individuals can’t sue telcos for violating their rights? And it’s an easy thing to avoid.

          You just tell them to go get a subpoena.

          If the government wants to go after you for obstruction at that point, you let them. And if the government thought they could win such a conviction, they wouldn’t have bothered to pass a law that made the telcos immune to those lawsuits retroactively.

          1. How can you make a challenge something that’s classified?

            1. I’m sure that’s difficult.

              But the law that gave the telcos retroactive immunity isn’t classified. You can read the text of it yourself.

              And the court case that the Supreme Court refused to hear challenging that law wasn’t classified either.

              The Supreme Court can certainly rule that law unconstitutional.

              1. We should remind ourselves what Obama used to say about retroactive immunity for the telcos, too.

                Hint: he voted against the law!

                “In February, Obama voted on a Senate bill against retroactive immunity. And when asked for CNET News.com’s 2008 Technology Voters’ Guide whether he supported “giving (phone companies) retroactive immunity for any illicit cooperation with intelligence agencies or law enforcement, ” he answered “No.”

                During the primary, Obama vowed to fight such legislation to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, the Times story said. But now he has switched his position to support a compromise bill that was worked out between the White House and Democratic Congressional leaders.

                The bill is expected to be voted on by the Senate on Tuesday after the Fourth of July holiday, the article said.

                Disappointed Obama supporters told the Times that they see the shift in the telecom immunity issue as a test of Obama’s principles in opposing Bush’s surveillance program. The article quotes Markos Moulitsas, a blogger and founder of DailyKos.com, as saying that he has decided to cut back the amount of money he gives to the Obama campaign.”

                http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-9982898-7.html

                1. He lied? Oh. Wow. I’m shocked. Really. I am.

                  1. Of all of his flip-flops, I think this was one of the most blatant and one of the worst.

                    Any Democrat cultural conservatives out there who want to fault Obama for flipping on gay marriage may differ–that was about as surprising as the sun rising this morning.

                    Giving the telcos immunity for the shit they do to their customers is a big part of what facilitated the Fourth Amendmentless shit hole we’re in now, and I think there were a lot of reasonable people who supported Obama because of his stance on that.

                    If I remember correctly, there were Reason staff who supported Obama, in no small part, because of his stance on issues like that.

      4. Verizon is still evil. They are the ones leading the campaign against Open Internet.

        Blocking websites from their customers will be their payback.

        1. Blocking websites from their customers will be their payback.

          Yes it will, sit back and watch the market react.

        2. They may well be however there are some aspects to what the government considers open access that muddies the waters a little bit. It’s one of the big reasons most carriers are eliminating unlimited data. Open access means they have to treat all customers the same. So if you have somebody downloading terabytes of data every hour and hogging every last bit of bandwidth in the cell coverage area, open access means if you allow anyone unlimited data you have to allow everyone unlimited data including this customer and would not be permitted to throttle their bandwidth down in response to excessive usage. As with everything the government attempts to do, it’s not all cream and sugar.

          1. The solution is pretty easy. Just eliminate unlimited data and jack up the prices on the high end. That’s what they’re doing and pissing off a lot of customers who still want the unlimited.

      5. “Why should anyone be held liable for something the government forces you to do upon pain of imprisonment or death?”

        The government didn’t force them.

        There’s a way the government does that–and it’s called a “subpoena”.

        All they had to do was tell the government to go get a subpoena.

        It’s not that hard to do. I’ve done it before. When I was a release of information clerk at a hospital. I even did it to the FBI once! They came in demanding to see a patient’s record, and I told them I’d be happy to help them–just go get a subpoena.

        They threatened to arrest me. I was threatened by FBI agents, etc. Hell, I even refused to comply with subpoenas that were improperly executed. Sometimes they’d have the patient’s name misspelled. Sometimes, they’d have the hospital’s name or address wrong.

        That’s not going to protect the hospital from a lawsuit, and people routinely sue companies for releasing their information without a subpoena all the time.

        Let them off the hook? Why?

        I was a kid working in a hospital, and I stood up to them–for the sake of the hospital. Why couldn’t the telcos do the same?

        Oh, and retroactive immunity! They made their immunity retroactive! How can that be okay? Not only is it okay to violate the rights of your customers with impunity (and without fear of lawsuits), all of your behavior in regards to this in the past is now okay, too?

        Fuck that. Fuck all of it.

        1. A warrant is a court order

          1. Did the NSA get a warrant for all 300 million of us?

            1. FTFA

              “Verizon only releases such stored content to law enforcement with a warrant; we do not produce stored content in response to a general order or subpoena. Last year, we received approximately 14,500 warrants for stored content.”

              1. Ken’s not good at reading comprehension, dude.

                1. Episiarch should stick to one liners.

              2. “Verizon wireless has released its first ever transparency report revealing how many demands from law enforcement for information about its customers the company received in 2013. in total: 321,545 such demands. How many such demands were warrants based on probable cause? Just 36,696 of them.”

                So, what are we talking about with the other 284,849 demands?

                And are we still talking about metadata, too? Is that supposed to be okay now?

                1. None of it’s ok. Well some of those request are probably legit but we know those are probably way in the minority (racist). The question is what you do when the goon squad shows up at your door with warrants and guns?

        2. When was in college in the late 90s and early 00s, I remember overhearing a guy talking about how his father installed hardware for telecoms. He talked about being required to install switches that gave the government access to everything, with or without a warrant. The telecoms were forced to literally build government snooping technology right into their infrastructure.

          1. If what the guy you overhead’s father said was true, then there’s no reason for the telcos to willingly cooperate with demands sans a warrant or subpoena.

            And there’s no reason to give them immunity for violating our rights, either.

            1. there’s no reason for the telcos to willingly cooperate with demands sans a warrant or subpoena.

              Because when you operate in an industry where your very existence and any prospect of expansion is dependent on how favorably the government decides to treat you when you next renew your lease on their airspace and land, what possible incentive could you have to cooperate?

              1. “there’s no reason for the telcos to willingly cooperate with demands sans a warrant or subpoena.”

                Look very closely to what I was responding to.

                If what sarcasmic says is true, and the government already has all of the data anyway by way of a backdoor, then there’s no reason for the telcos to give the government that data–because the government already has it.

  4. The elephant in the living room is the Nat’l Security letter issue.

    We’re transparent, except for where we’re not allowed to tell you where we’re transparent.

    Unfortunately, it is a binary condition. Verizon isn’t transparent because they’re not allowed to be by law.

    Doctor: Paul, how many drinks do you have a week?

    Paul: Two.

    Doctor: Come on, only two?

    Paul: I’m not allowed to tell you about drinks I have under certain circumstances.

    Doctor: So… I need to know how many drinks you have a week.

    Paul: Two.

    Doctor: *getting frustrated* but if you were having more, would you tell me?

    Paul: No.

    Doctor: So this number is really meaningless.

    Paul: Two.

  5. I wonder what the actual cost to companies for the outsourcing of law enforcement is. Because the law enforcement edifice in this country forces tons of businesses to do their work for them (not that anyone should be doing that work in the first place), especially places like banks or pharmacies. The banks are forced to do all the basic money laundering investigation for the government, and if they don’t, the government will fuck them hard. Or take (was it) CVS; the government decided they weren’t being vigilant enough about prescriptions and fined the fuck out of them.

    The government couldn’t even come close to doing what it does without forcing businesses to assist them (and forcing the businesses to spend their own money in doing so). It’s just another fascistic-style action our government engages in all the time. Yay! Plus it’s a shadow tax too! Yay even more!

    1. If I’m going to execute you, you think I’m going to dig that grave for you? No, I’m outsourcing the digging to you.

    2. In the end the prices we pay reflect that additional cost. It just yet another tax.

      1. I ALREADY SAID IT WAS A SHADOW TAX.

        Don’t be like Paul.

        1. Episiarch is correct. Think of Paul as a kind of cautionary tale for your kids.

          You: You wanna end up like Gary Busey Paul?

          Kids: *catching breath, eyes widening*

          You: Exactly, now straighten up.

          1. Teacher: Kids, what do you want to be when you grow up?

            Kid #1: A fireman!

            Kid #2: A parasite…I mean politician! Or lawyer!

            Kid #3: A sports star!

            Kid #4 (the smart one): Not like Paul!

            And there you have it.

            1. I’d tell kid #4 to aim higher. It’s not hard to avoid the pitfall that is Paul.

        2. Dude, I can’t read that whole freaking post. I have a job.

    3. The AML stuff is simply crazy. Not only are banks responsible for their own AML policies, their responsible for all of the customers’ AML policies.

      If say, Lucky 7 Check Casher (customer of BOFA) cashes a check for NarcoTerrorist Smith without proper identification, BOFA gets dinged, regardless of whether the money for the check ever touched BOFA.

      It simply makes it excruciating difficult for any non-bank company to move money for customers since they can’t get even get bank accounts anywhere to do things like pay their employees.

    4. the government decided they weren’t being vigilant enough about prescriptions and fined the fuck out of them.

      To say nothing of the fact that they’ve made pharmacists liable for selling over the counter cold medication lest a meth head purchase more than the daily ration to get high with.

  6. the government will allow us to provide a broad range.

    SEXIST!

  7. I like the route that is going man.

    http://www.AnonWork.tk

  8. Phil Zimmerman was on FBN today talking about his upcoming “Blackphone”.

    http://rt.com/news/security-en…..e-nsa-667/

    1. Always with the racist phones.

    2. My brother Frank is not gay, dude. He’d of told me.

  9. Hey, at least it wasn’t “between 1,000 and 100,000”. That’s considered accurate enough in astronomy.

    /silver lining.

  10. The Supreme Court refused the hear the challenge to the retroactive immunity given to the telcos circa 2008, when they violate our constitutional rights in collusion with the government, is up there among the worst things the Court did (or failed to do) over the last 15 years. Get email support for email problems and solutions.

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