Verizon Details How It Spied On Its Customers In 2013

Tyler Durden's picture

While Edward Snowden's legacy has already been felt in official, government circle most recently with Obama's amusing, if completely meaningless, theatrical reformation of the NSA (so wait, the Utah's superstasi spy center is now closed, right?), it is now the private sector's turn. Moments ago, Verizon - in what is hopefully the first such action of many - provided an extensive "Transparency Report" in which it disclosed the "number of subpoenas, orders, and warrants we received from law enforcement in the United States last year. We also received emergency requests and National Security Letters. The vast majority of these various types of demands relate to our consumer customers; we receive relatively few demands regarding our enterprise customers." So regular retail customers are being actively spied on, but corporations are safe. Good to know.

And now, time for the AT&T to do the same:

 

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The full transparency report:

U.S. Data

In 2013, Verizon received approximately 320,000 requests for customer information from federal, state or local law enforcement in the United States. We do not release customer information unless authorized by law, such as a valid law enforcement demand or an appropriate request in an emergency involving the danger of death or serious physical injury.

The table below sets out the number of subpoenas, orders, and warrants we received from law enforcement in the United States last year. We also received emergency requests and National Security Letters. The vast majority of these various types of demands relate to our consumer customers; we receive relatively few demands regarding our enterprise customers.

Overall, we saw an increase in the number of demands we received in 2013, as compared to 2012.

Subpoenas

We received approximately 164,000 subpoenas from law enforcement in the United States last year. We are required by law to provide the information requested in a valid subpoena. The subpoenas we receive are generally used by law enforcement to obtain subscriber information or the type of information that appears on a customer’s phone bill. More than half of the subpoenas we receive seek only subscriber information: that is, those subpoenas typically require us to provide the name and address of a customer assigned a given phone number or IP address. Other subpoenas also ask for certain transactional information, such as phone numbers that a customer called. The types of information we can provide in response to a subpoena are limited by law. We do not release contents of communications (such as text messages or emails) or cell site location information in response to subpoenas.

Orders

We received about 70,000 court orders last year. These court orders must be signed by a judge, indicating that the law enforcement officer has made the requisite showing required under the law to the judge. The orders compel us to provide some type of information to the government.

General Orders. Most of the orders we received last year – almost 63,000 – were “general orders.” We use the term “general order” to refer to an order other than a wiretap order, warrant, or pen register or trap and trace order. Almost half of the general orders required us to release the same types of basic information that could also be released pursuant to a subpoena. We do not provide law enforcement any stored content (such as text messages or email) in response to a general order.

Pen/Trap” Orders and Wiretap Orders. A small subset of the orders we received last year – about 7,800 – required us to provide access to data in real-time. A pen register order requires us to provide law enforcement with real-time access to phone numbers as they are dialed, while a trap and trace order compels us to provide law enforcement with real-time access to the phone numbers from incoming calls.  We do not provide any content in response to pen register or trap and trace orders.  We received about 6,300 court orders to assist with pen registers or trap and traces last year, although generally a single order is for both a pen register and trap and trace. Far less frequently, we are required to assist with wiretaps, where law enforcement accesses the content of a communication as it is taking place. We received about 1,500 wiretap orders last year.

Warrants

We received about 36,000 warrants last year. To obtain a warrant a law enforcement officer must show a judge that there is “probable cause” to believe that the evidence sought is related to a crime.  This is a higher standard than the standard for a general order. While many warrants seek the same types of information that can also be obtained through a general order or subpoena, most warrants we received in 2013 sought stored content or location information.
What showing must law enforcement make to obtain a warrant?
What is the difference between stored content and non-content?

Content and Location Information

Content. We are compelled to provide contents of communications to law enforcement relatively infrequently. Under the law, law enforcement may seek communications or other content that a customer may store through our services, such as text messages or email. Verizon only releases such stored content to law enforcement with a warrant; we do not produce stored content in response to a general order or subpoena. Last year, we received approximately 14,500 warrants for stored content.

As explained above, law enforcement may also present a wiretap order to obtain access to the content of a communication as it is taking place, which they did about 1,500 times last year. Taken together, the number of orders for stored content and to wiretap content in real-time accounted for only about five percent of the total number of demands we received in 2013.

Location Information.  Verizon only produces location information in response to a warrant or order; we do not produce location information in response to a subpoena. Last year, we received about 35,000 demands for location data: about 24,000 of those were through orders and about 11,000 through warrants. In addition, we received about 3,200 warrants or court orders for “cell tower dumps” last year. In such instances, the warrant or court order compelled us to identify the phone numbers of all phones that connected to a specific cell tower during a given period of time. The number of warrants and orders for location information are increasing each year.

Emergency Requests

Law enforcement requests information from Verizon that is needed to help resolve serious emergencies. We are authorized by federal law to provide the requested information in such emergencies and we have an established process to respond to emergency requests, in accordance with the law. To request data during these emergencies, a law enforcement officer must certify in writing that there was an emergency involving the danger of death or serious physical injury to a person that required disclosure without delay. These emergency requests are made in response to active violent crimes, bomb threats, hostage situations, kidnappings and fugitive scenarios, often presenting life-threatening situations. In addition, many emergency requests are in search and rescue settings or when law enforcement is trying to locate a missing child or elderly person.

We also receive emergency requests for information from Public Safety Answering Points regarding particular 9-1-1 calls from the public. Calls for emergency services, such as police, fire or ambulance, are answered in call centers throughout the country, known as PSAPs. PSAPs receive tens of millions of calls from 9-1-1 callers each year, and certain information about the calls (name and address for wireline callers; phone numbers and available location information for wireless callers) is typically made available to the PSAP when a 9-1-1 call is made. Yet a small percentage of the time PSAP officials need to contact the telecom provider to get information that was not automatically communicated by virtue of the 9-1-1 call or by the 9-1-1 caller.

In 2013, we received 85,116 emergency requests for information from law enforcement in emergency matters involving the danger of death or serious physical injury or from PSAPs relating to particular 9-1-1 calls from the public for emergency services.  While in 2013 we did not track whether an emergency request was made by law enforcement or PSAPs, we are doing so now.  We estimate that at least half of these requests – approximately 50,000 – were from law enforcement pursuant to the emergency procedures discussed above and the remainder were from PSAPs after receiving 9-1-1 calls from the public.

National Security Letters

We also received between 1,000 and 2,000 National Security Letters in 2013. We are not permitted to disclose the exact number of National Security Letters that were issued to us, but the government will allow us to provide a broad range.