Verizon: We Protect Our Customers' Data... Until The Government Asks For It

from the um,-that's-not-protecting dept

So, Verizon has finally come out with a statement about the fact that they're handing over all data on every call anyone on its network makes to the government. And the response is just as ridiculous as you'd expect:
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.

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:
  • 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."
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.
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.

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.

Filed Under: data, government, privacy

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    SolkeshNaranek (profile), 7 Jun 2013 @ 8:39am


    Reading this article and many of the others on the net about this subject, I wonder if perhaps Verizon and the other companies are compliant because money is involved.

    If the government is reimbursing the companies for cooperating, perhaps that would explain why they are so willing to roll over against their customers.

    These large communications corporations certainly have enough money and lawyers to appeal an order like this.

    Since none of them are stating they tried this tactic it makes me think they sought no legal recourse against the order for securing citizen information.

    Perhaps money eased their collective consciences?

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.