Sat, Dec 21, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Verizon to publish more data-request disclosures

Reuters

Verizon Communications Inc vowed to issue semi-annual reports on government requests for customer data, drawing praise from privacy advocates who sought such changes and marking the latest reform to controversial surveillance practices.

This would be the first time that Verizon will publish such reports that would be easily accessible to shareholders.

Verizon, the second-largest US telephone company by revenue, announced the move on Thursday following pressure from activist investors concerned about the role of network operators in government spying operations.

Last month, the investors pushed Verizon and AT&T Inc to disclose details on their sharing of customer information with government agencies.

The Verizon move may put pressure on AT&T to follow suit. It also comes a day after a White House-appointed panel proposed curbs on various US National Security Agency (NSA) operations, including a halt to bulk collection of phone call records.

The reforms draw on revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, including the disclosure of close ties between spy agencies and technology firms.

Verizon nodded to the concerns in its statement and called on “governments around the world to provide more information on the types and amounts of data they collect and the legal processes that apply when they do so.”

Verizon promised to publish online reports with data on the number of law enforcement requests for customer information it receives in the US and other countries in which it does business.

It said it would publish its first report early next year with data on this year’s requests. Verizon will update the information twice a year after that to provide more transparency.

Verizon’s move toward greater disclosure follows similar initiatives from tech companies such as Google Inc and Yahoo Inc.

Asked if it might follow Verizon’s latest move, an AT&T spokesman said: “While we have disclosed a lot of information in this area, we are always exploring ways to do more.”

One of the shareholders pressing AT&T is New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees a retirement fund for state workers. In a statement, DiNapoli praised Verizon’s move and said that AT&T should follow its lead.

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