Verizon: We Protect Our Customers' Data... Until The Government Asks For It
from the um,-that's-not-protecting dept
You may have seen stories in the news about a top secret order Verizon allegedly received to produce certain calling information to the U.S. government.Let's parse that a bit. First, to "not comment" on it is ridiculous. This is the same issue I had with the government pretending that leaked Wikileaks documents had never leaked. It's not reality-based. In the business world, if you sign a non-disclosure agreement, it only applies to information that remains private. If the same information becomes public through other means, it's recognized that the non-disclosure agreement no longer applies. Because that's living in reality. Pretending you can't comment on the document is not reality-based.
We have no comment on the accuracy of The Guardian newspaper story or the documents reference, but a few items in these stores are important. The alleged court order that The Guardian published on its website contains language that:
Verizon continually takes steps to safeguard its customers' privacy. Nevertheless, the law authorizes the federal courts to order a company to provide information in certain circumstances, and if Verizon were to receive such an order, we would be required to comply.
- compels Verizon to respond;
- forbids Verizon from revealing the order's existence; and
- excludes from production the "content of any communication . . . or the name, address, or financial information of a subscriber or customer."
Second, the claim that "Verizon continually takes steps to safeguard its customers' privacy" is completely meaningless when they're handing every bit of that data over to the government. Third, the idea that this order "excludes" information like someone's name is pretty silly. Don't you think that the federal government might have a giant database, in the form of a basic phone book that lets them look up the name associated with each number?
But, most importantly, this whole claim that Verizon is compelled to obey is silly and ignores some of the history. When the government asks you to break the law, you have the right to say no. And here's the big thing: even if this is legal today, that only came about because various telcos worked with the government on broad lawbreaking in the past, only to have the government paper that over with new laws that made such things "legal" and included retroactive immunity. And, really, that's all that Verizon really cares about (and you'll note they don't mention it): that they have no liability for coughing up everyone's information.