Same Day It's Revealed Verizon Has Never Challenged NSA, It Mocks Internet Companies For Doing So

from the poor-timing dept

We mentioned in our post about the newly declassified FISC ruling, explaining the secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act that allows for bulk data collection of all phone records, that the FISC notes (in its own support) that telcos like Verizon and AT&T have chosen to never challenge the bulk collection orders:
To date, no holder of records who has received an Order to produce bulk telephony metadata has challenged the legality of such an Order. Indeed, no recipient of any Section 215 Order has challenged the legality of such an Order, despite the explicit statutory mechanism for doing so.
This is hardly a surprise. We'd already pointed out that, while the internet companies had been very vocal about the NSA surveillance efforts, there had been a deafening silence from the likes of Verizon and AT&T. In fact, it later came out that the telcos actually volunteered to share this information, and when the tech companies reached out to get them to sign onto a letter asking the government to be more transparent, AT&T and Verizon refused to sign on.

Given all of this, it's hard to imagine any worse timing than the very same day that the FISC ruling was unclassified for a Verizon exec to finally speak out on this. Specifically Verizon Enterprise Solutions president John Stratton decided to talk about this... by mocking Google, Yahoo and Microsoft for "grandstanding" on this issue, and to pretend that Verizon had to just shut up and hand over the records for the sake of national security.
"I appreciate that the consumer-centric IT firms that you referenced [Yahoo, Google, Microsoft] that it's important to grandstand a bit, and waive their arms and protest loudly so as not to offend the sensibility of their customers," Stratton said.

"This is a more important issue than that which is generated in a press release. This is a matter of national security."

Stratton said the larger issue that failed to be addressed in the actions of the companies is of keeping security and liberty in balance.

"There is another question that needs to be kept in the balance, which is a question of civil liberty and the rights of the individual citizen in the context of that broader set of protections that the government seeks to create in its society."
Of course, the internet companies have done more than issue press releases. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all currently suing the government concerning the gag order on Section 702 Orders. Yahoo fought back on a FISA Court order in 2008. Google is still in the process of fighting back against questionable National Security Letters, while Twitter, which turned down a request to be a part of the PRISM program has also fought hard against a so-called 2703(d) letter for info on its users.

And, yet, when faced with a much broader demand from the government, seeking info on every single phone call, neither AT&T nor Verizon lifted a finger in protest. And, contrary to Stratton's claims, as the FISC ruling makes clear, both AT&T and Verizon had a clear legal path to appeal to make sure that the privacy of their customers was being protected. But they didn't do that. And now Verizon wants to mock the internet companies? Stratton just couldn't help himself it seems:
Stratton said that as a company, Verizon follows the law, and those laws are set by governments.

"The laws are not set by Verizon, they are set by the governments in which we operate. I think its important for us to recognise that we participate in debate, as citizens, but as a company I have obligations that I am going to follow."
Again, one of those "obligations" is to protect the privacy of your customers, and as the court notes, Section 215 allows Verizon to challenge these orders and make sure they are appropriate. Verizon never did so. I agree that if it had challenged and then lost in court, Verizon would have had little recourse other than to hand over the info, but the facts remain that Verizon didn't even take that basic step. And now it mocks those who have, pretending that all they've done is send out press releases, when the evidence shows they've done what Verizon has refused to do: go to court, in an effort to protect the privacy of their users.

Then there's this laugher:
"This is not a question that will be answered by a telecom executive, this is not a question that will be answered by an IT executive. This is a question that must be answered by societies themselves.

"I believe this is a bigger issue, and press releases and fizzy statements don't get at the issue; it needs to be solved by society."
And just how is "society" supposed to answer that question when the whole program is kept secret from the American public? And part of that secrecy is because Verizon failed to do what it is allowed to do by law, and challenge the Section 215 bulk data collection orders?

Then he goes back to the bullshit talking points of the NSA:
"Verizon, like every communications company on the planet, operates in many jurisdictions, and our obligation in operating in those jurisdictions is to comply with the law in those places where we do business. So whether that be in the United States, in the United Kingdom, in Japan, whoever it is that we have a licence with to operate our business, we have these obligations," he said.

"As it relates to the NSA — as has been discussed, the information was conveyed under a very rigorous process that had oversight by all three branches of the United States government."
No, it was not a vigorous process, in large part because of Verizon's own failure to challenge the Section 215 orders it got. In that case, at least there would have been an adversarial hearing. There hasn't been one because Verizon failed to do so. There's a difference between just "complying with the law" and "rolling over and submitting" when the government comes to you with a bogus request, which even explains exactly how to challenge it in court. Verizon chose to roll over.

Already, we've seen that the vaunted "oversight by all three branches" is simply not true. It's been revealed that Congress was not aware of large parts of the program, in part because some NSA defenders purposely kept their colleagues in the dark. The judicial system -- the FISC -- has admitted that it relies on what the NSA tells it, in part because of the lack of any adversary in court. And, once again, Verizon could have been that adversary, but instead, made the conscious decision not to do so.
"Verizon is not unique in the world in terms of its need to comply with the laws of the countries in which it operates. These requirements that are put upon it by governments, duly elected governments, are something that we are very careful about, very thoughtful about, and we work vigorously to protect the privacy of our customers data."
A company that is "very careful" and "very thoughtful" and which works "vigorously to protect the privacy or our customer data" does not first volunteer to hand it over to the government, and then when given a broad order demanding every phone record choose to ignore the stated process by which it can challenge that order.

Perhaps this is why Verizon has been so quiet throughout all of this. When one of its execs opens his mouth, it just makes the company look worse.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    Violynne (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 6:02am

    It's amazing what comes out of the mouths of executives when they have a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card at their disposal.

    Of course he can say this crap. He's above the law and the Constitution, thanks to the NSA.

    Well, maybe this article will get plastered by Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft all over the place so Verizon customers can make that call...

    ... and switch to T-Mobile.

     

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    •  
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      Ninja (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 6:19am

      Re:

      Providing T is any better. (I don't know, I'm just trying to provoke more discussion :D)

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:32am

        Re: Re:

        Sprint and Tmo are better than ATT and Verizon as far as privacy, according to this article. And, there is research that shows that Tmo can get 4G speeds of 12mb, while ATT can get 10MB.

        Tmo JUMP plan is better than ATT and Verizon, as analyzed elsewhere (Sprint hasn't released their info yet)

        Overall - the only thing wrong with Tmo is that they are not an American company...that they don't have to play by all of the American laws. Or - is that a good thing right now?

         

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 10:24am

      Re:

      "Of course he can say this crap. He's above the law and the Constitution, thanks to the NSA."

      Actually I would say thanks to every damn branch of our government. Congress voted on telecom immunity, Obama supported it, and SCOTUS wouldn't take the case.

       

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    •  
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      gorehound (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 12:05pm

      Re:

      Taking the Government Money to sell out the Citizens of this Nation.........as usual it is always about the greedy A-Hole Corporations.Never about standing up and protecting the Citizens.
      We now wonder about these other Telcos......like T-Mobile, etc.I can just bet they all cave in to the Government Man.
      What was needed when it all went down was for all those Telcos & High End Tech to SAY NO but they did not and now We can all sleep in the Bed they created.
      The Day may just come that these big greedy rollers will be sorry they ever complied.They dig their own grave as well.

       

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    Ninja (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 6:20am

    "The laws are not set by Verizon, they are set by the governments in which we operate. I think its important for us to recognise that we participate in debate, as citizens, but as a company I have obligations that I am going to follow."

    Why yes, I'm sure many German companies complied with the holocaust. After all we've been contracted to help build/produce tools to kill unwanted people en masse. If only the Germans had stood up.

    The guy is a complete moron.

     

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      ChrisB (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 7:47am

      Re:

      Whoa whoa whoa. Really?

      I know it is fashionable to dump on companies, but lets be clear about who the bad guy is in this situation: the US government. The government needs to be shrunk and its powers neutered. Sure, it would be nice if phone companies stuck up for people, but they are at the mercy of the government. They have a government granted monopoly. Of course they aren't going to rock the boat.

      I think people have to break their "occupy" mindset to realize the government is the enemy in this, not corporations, who are victims like us.

       

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        negruvoda (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 7:56am

        Re: Re:

        No, when the corporations have a vested interest in keeping the government the way it is they are not victims.
        Verizon does not suffer from the data collection. It did not trample their customer's privacy under duress. I simply handed over the data and now it's exec is patting the company on the back and telling people to deal with it.

        Reducing government may or may not be the answer, but you need to realize that large corporations are not victims of government, or even subject to the same restrictions as normal people. Corporations benefit from government granted monopolies, and they intend to have it that way for as long as possible. This way they do not need to rely on concepts such as free market or competition or customer privacy or even decent service at a decent price.

         

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        Pragmatic, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:03am

        Re: Re:

        Need I point out that corporations are setting, or at least influencing, government policy? Hardly a victim's position. Who has seats at the tables of the TPP and other trade agreement discussions? Hint: not public interest groups.

        While Occupy was somewhat misguided in believing that staging a giant sit-in could make a difference, they had the right idea on who the enemy is.

        I should also point out that the phone companies were MAKING MONEY from selling our data to the government. And that the lobbyists are pretty much running the show.

         

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        Ninja (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:04am

        Re: Re:

        There are ways to try to keep the boat afloat while pushing back. Google/Yahoo/Twitter and the likes that he mocked are doing it. You don't need to go all out but you don't need to comply with it. I gave the extreme example but it's exactly what his mindset is. Furthermore there are corporations that are somewhat victims indeed but the Government is corrupt BECAUSE of some big corporations.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:37am

          Re: Re: Re:

          your list of good v evil can go much longer. Evil companies are harder to find - but I am sure it isn't only ATT and Verizon. Good companies include Lavabit email provider and Groklaw - they simply didn't want to play. Which I greatly respect.

           

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:07am

        Re: Re:

        No, I think it is appropriate.

        Verizon basically came out with a "blah, blah, blah, our hands are tied" bullshit argument.

        If Verizon actually cared about its customers, it would challenge the requests from the government to the full extent allowed by the law. Or at least protest really loudly.

        It did not, which means that it implicitly supports the government's actions.

        Also, don't be confused by the separation between "government" and "corporations". The two are deeply interconnected these days. So a "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" arrangement is to be expected. Indeed, the government gave telecoms near immunity in exchange for access to their data.

        tl;dr: government and corporations are BOTH evil.

         

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        John Fenderson (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:35am

        Re: Re:

        I think people have to break their "occupy" mindset to realize the government is the enemy in this, not corporations, who are victims like us


        This is pure bullshit. First, there was a legal process by which they could have fought while remaining within the law. Secondly, these "victims" have had an inordinate amount of influence in crafting the very laws they're being "victimized" by.

        They are hardly innocents. Yes, the US government is to blame, but we're talking about corporations that are, in effect, parts of the government now.

         

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        Bengie, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 10:09am

        Re: Re:

        With great power comes great responsibility. The corps are some of the few that have the power to get Congress to do something, but instead the corps keep parroting what the Government says so they can keep making lots of money.

         

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        Lionel S., Sep 19th, 2013 @ 7:26am

        Re: Re:

        I don't think you quite understand how this works. Of course the government has to be shrinked and it's powers neutered. That's what everybody wants but you can't just blame the government and expect them to shrink themselves. Somebody has to ACT. And a simple single citizen or even a group can't do anything.

        That's why we need big corporations to fight back, because they have the power to do so.

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), Sep 19th, 2013 @ 9:30am

          Re: Re: Re:

          That's why we need big corporations to fight back, because they have the power to do so.


          The problem is that the big corporations are the government.

           

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    identicon
    Tony T, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 7:45am

    This is what retro-active immunity gets you

    When congress passed the law that gave telco's retro-active immunity (something they have been trying to get since the 1950's)the 4th Amendment was effectively dead.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 7:46am

    A Question

    Does all phone records mean all USA phone records or all phone records world wide?

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:38am

      Re: A Question

      All phone records that pass thru the USA (whether stopping or not), or phone records that pass thru our ally countries that we share this with.

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:46am

      Re: A Question

      Nah, just USA.

      They may have a few other countries, courtesy of AMDOCS (Israel company that runs telco billing software for a lot of telcos, was suspected of spying for Israel against USA). Now we have General Keith Alexander sending the very same data to Israel that AMDOCS was accused of spying on! Strange world isn't it?

      Vodafone is a company that repeatedly pops up in spying cases (e.g. Greece, and now the German purchase), it *is* certainly part of the GCHQ domestic spying, but its difficult to prove their data from abroad (Vodafone Spain, Vodafone Greece etc.) finds it ways back to NSA.

      Curious I just searched to see if Vodafone and Amdocs are linked, and yes they are.

      http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=24926239

      "Amdocs, Inc. and Vodafone have signed a five-year global managed services agreement for Vodafone's customer care and billing domain based on Amdocs software applications. For customer care and billing based on Amdocs software applications, Vodafone selected Amdocs a global domain leader in communications software and IT services to be the managed services provider to deliver application development, operations and maintenance services, the company said. As part of this strategic agreement, Amdocs will establish a dedicated Shared Service and Development Center for Vodafone and this center will start with servicing Vodafone's local markets in Germany, UK and the Netherlands. Working with Amdocs in a managed services model that centralizes support across markets enables Vodafone to improve its business agility, simplify operations and reduce risk. It also enables Vodafone to predefine desired performance levels, and improve on them for maximum control."

       

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 7:50am

    "Deafening silence" is at least more honest than pretending to oppose!

    "Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all currently suing the government concerning the gag order on Section 702 Orders." -- Oh, big deal. Meanwhile, according to Snowden, NSA has "direct" access to Google and Facebook servers.

    Spying is the main 'business model' of the internet, especially for Google and Facebook.

     

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    ricebowl (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:00am

    "it's important to grandstand a bit, and waive their arms"


    ...and now I understand the implicit danger of protesting against the NSA's (legal, I tell you!) 'requests.' Kudos to those still fighting, under those conditions.

     

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    bgmcb (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:05am

    I'm sorry I'm not a Verizon customer

    I can't quit.
    Anyone sending money to those assholes is part of the problem.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:14am

      Re: I'm sorry I'm not a Verizon customer

      I wish I could quit Verizon, but I can't unless I want to switch back to dial up modems.

      There's no honest and standing up for customers rights high speed Internet companies around here, or anywhere else in the US.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:12am

    "Stratton said that as a company, Verizon follows the law, and those laws are set by governments."

    So, if the law says that if you see any mixed raced couples holding hands you have to grab an axe and brutally chop them both to pieces, you're simply following the law, because the government made the law. There's no need to question why the law requires you to do something as morally wrong as murdering 2 innocent people.

    Just like the Nazi's, they were just following orders jailing and killing all of those Jews, gays, and other 'undesirable' people.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:15am

    It is interesting that the secrecy creates assumptions from FISC about telecompanies protecting costumer data from NSA as the standard position. By that assumption failing - as Verizon makes clear - very important pieces of FISCs basic reasonings becomes completely moot.

    Also, I would go even further and say that Verizon seems to mock the concept of "consumer protection", not just in terms of legal status, but as something to take serious. If I were a costumer at them, I would get out of dodge if at all possible or start pushing letters to politicians about the monopoly-behaviour.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:20am

    So says the Gerbil on the wheel!

    The question is, exactly who has the power and position to oppose these secret, illegal laws and orders? When society is forbidden to even know what is happening and ATT does I would say the responsibility falls to them. They received the order and they had the opportunity and responsibility to object and they took as pass. This responsibility should extend to any country they do business in, that is called being a good corporate citizen. But the they have a long history of being irresponsible. ATT seems to forget that the government is one customer, as part of the "public" we are millions. So anger us at your own peril.

     

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    identicon
    Loki, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:27am

    It's been revealed that Congress was not aware of large parts of the program, in part because some NSA defenders purposely kept their colleagues in the dark.

    If some of these people were in the dark (and I have sincere doubts many of them are as clueless as they like to claim) maybe, just maybe, they ought to go to work every day (like the rest of the world) and not just 3-4 months a year.

    Seems to me if they put in an honest days work for their precious 170K+ salaries, they might actually know what's going on, and not have to read about it in the newspapers.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Howard, Cowering, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:28am

    Typo

    Sutton should be Stratton, presuming the preponderance of usage is the correct one.

     

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    MikeH, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 8:33am

    consumer-centric?

    My favorite bit:

    "I appreciate that the consumer-centric IT firms..." So by converse, Verizon is not consumer-centric. Explains so much of my interaction with this company.

     

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      identicon
      Cowards Anonymous, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 5:56pm

      Re: consumer-centric?

      Exactly what I was thinking and about to comment on. I think it's clear by the manner in which Verizon refers to the government here that Verizon must be a government-centric firm.

       

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    identicon
    Me, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 9:12am

    This attitude is another reason these companies cannot be trusted to serve their customers.

    I worked for a predecessor of Verizon way back in the 90's, and during the famous OJ Bronco chase, the only reason those helicopters were there filming was because people within the company leaked the cell-tower coordinates for OJ's cellphone to the media and police. All **WITHOUT** a valid court order. Back then the company was extremely fearful that information would get out. Now they brag about similar behavior.

     

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    Sea Man, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 9:14am

    Hypocrite much?

    "The laws are not set by Verizon, they are set by the governments in which we operate."

    Orl'y?

    http://buzzmachine.com/2013/09/17/verizon-caught-red-handed/

     

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    identicon
    Crusty the Ex-Clown, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 9:46am

    Shorter Stratton:

    Not only did I bend over, I also held the NSA's tube of K-Y for them. I suggest all of you should just relax and submit too.

     

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    Randy Zagar (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 10:47am

    Anybody remember what happened to Qwest?

    I do...

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/12/washington/12cnd-phone.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    On ce they refused the NSA request, they started losing government contracts...

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/12/AR2007101202485.html

    This might explain the Telco's reluctance to refuse overbroad requests. There's already a precedent of losing government funding when you appear "adversarial".

     

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      silverscarcat (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 11:11am

      Re: Anybody remember what happened to Qwest?

      "Nice business you got here, it would be a shame if you didn't comply with our 4th Amendment violating requests."

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 12:59pm

    consumer-centric IT firms

    What on earth has this guy been smoking to make him think telcos are not consumer-centric IT companies. Oh wait... probably legislated rights of way, a system of coordinated mini-monopolies and anti-trust immunity.

    There's the old saying, "You never miss the water 'til the well runs dry".

    I hope Toolio enjoys his crystal set and lapel pin, cause they'll be stuck without a chair when the music stops. Politicians never go down with the ship.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 4:02pm

      Re:

      What on earth has this guy been smoking to make him think telcos are not consumer-centric IT companies


      Nothing. Telcos are absolutely not consumer-centric companies. They hate consumers. The proof is in their behavior.

       

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    identicon
    ram, Sep 19th, 2013 @ 8:34am

    What is most galling is that Verizon was profiting from selling the info to the NSA, while we were told the data was safe and private.

     

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    identicon
    David, Sep 19th, 2013 @ 3:47pm

    Ditching Verizon

    I received a phone call this afternoon from a lady who said she was in the Executive Offices of the President of Verizon and she said they received my below letter and thanked me for the business.

    President, Verizon
    140 West Street
    New York, NY 10007

    September 12, 2013

    Sir:

    Neither I nor any member of my family and none of my employees are terrorists or criminals in any way. We’re a simple, law-abiding, middle-class family and I own a simple health insurance agency. We are quite ordinary and we currently use Verizon’s phone services.

    However, I am recently unsettled by disclosures of ongoing collaboration between Verizon and the NSA which opens our communications to government spying as if we were terrorists or criminals. None of those disclosures show that Verizon has fought against NSA intrusions on our privacy to the degree that those efforts would justify our continued use of your services.

    Accordingly, my family is ending our phone services with Verizon as soon as our existing contracts permit (quite soon, really). Furthermore, neither members of my family nor my insurance agency will use a Verizon product or service ever again.

    Sincerely,

    David W. Walters, Ph.D.

     

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    btrussell (profile), Sep 20th, 2013 @ 1:46am

    "...context of that broader set of protections that the government seeks to create in its society.""

    What society is that? The government society or the society they are supposed to be representing? The only thing they should be seeking is the will of the people.

     

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    LeSinge, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 8:27am

    NSA via Verizon

    I work for Verizon and we just had to do our annual CNPI and PII training which makes it a crime for us (the workers) to give out any customer information. It makes me furious that they tell us not to give out customer information but then turn around and give that and more customer information to the NSA thugs. I do not have Verizon as a service in any form and even though I work for them, I do not find their agenda.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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