AT&T's Transparency Report Offers Little Actual Transparency, Omits Millions Of Metadata Records
from the you-are-using-a-different-dictionary dept
After remaining mute during most of the Snowden firestorm (with the exception of telling investors whom AT&T spies on it is none of their business), AT&T has since agreed to start issuing transparency reports. Unfortunately, as with all things NSA, the word "transparency" doesn't mean what anybody thinks it means. As Wired notes, given what we know about what AT&T is actually doing, their estimate of 301,816 total government requests for information last year falls tens of millions short of what AT&T actually collects and hands off to government agencies:
"AT&T's transparency report counts 301,816 total requests for information — spread between subpoenas, court orders and search warrants — in 2013. That includes between 2,000 and 4,000 under the category “national security demands,” which collectively gathered information on about 39,000 to 42,000 different accounts.That's of course is because the new transparency guidelines (pdf) AT&T follows allow for total non-transparency in regards to disclosing metadata, using semantics to avoid disclosure:
There was a time when that number would have seemed high. Today, it's suspiciously low, given the disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden about the NSA's bulk metadata program. We now know that the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is ordering the major telecoms to provide the NSA a firehose of metadata covering every phone call that crosses their networks.
An accurate transparency report should include a line indicating that AT&T has turned over information on each and every one of its more than 80 million-plus customers. It doesn't."
"(EFF Attorney Nate) Cardozo believes that AT&T is correct that it is barred from disclosing the metadata numbers, because of the Obama administration's careful choice of language in the section relating to orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The guidelines allow for the disclosure, in chunks of 1,000, of “the number of customer selectors [phone numbers] targeted under FISA non-content orders.” Since the bulk metadata collection doesn't “target” any “selectors” it is, by definition, not subject to disclosure."And while Wired remains focused on metadata (call times, IDs, call duration), they're failing to note that if what Klein said remains true (and people seem to forget Klein existed, for some reason), we're talking about not only metadata -- but real time data streams and voice monitoring that isn't being disclosed as well. As we noted with Verizon's transparency report, you're not being all that transparent when you're omitting bulk collection of surveillance data, and the data you do disclose operates in vague ranges designed to be intentionally misleading. So when we say transparency, we of course mean not transparent whatsoever.