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:


* * *

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.


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.


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.


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.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
ParkAveFlasher's picture

Say, what's this tag on my ear?

Debtonation's picture

Someone needs to develop a Tor cellphone.

90's Child's picture

Straight from their main page.

"We are happy to report that we "dodged a bullet" last week when President Obama gave his January 17th speech on NSA "reforms". We were all ready to provide complete transparency about the current operating status of the Utah Data Center, but happily now it looks like we won't have to! "

TuesdayBen's picture

That works out to around 20 orders per state per day provided by Verizon alone.  If Verizon has 1/5 of all orders madeby LE, that is 100 orders per state per day.

Will you be one of the 100 in your state today?  Perhaps someone in your family or a friend?

Clowns on Acid's picture

Like a knife thru butter Billy B. ! Great stuff !

TuesdayBen's picture

Yeah, but the term 'bullshit' is too folksy for the evil that the NSA is perpetrating.

JustObserving's picture

Just a show of transparency.  The real critical information is being withheld.  Can one expect transparency, let alone accountability, in a fascist police state?

US withholding Fisa court orders on NSA bulk collection of Americans' data


Justice Department refuses to turn over 'certain other' documents in ACLU lawsuit meant to shed light on surveillance practices

US attorney Preet (of Steve A Cohen can keep his stolen billions fame) Bharara of the southern district of New York informed the ACLU in a Friday letter that the government would not turn over “certain other” records from a secret surveillance court, which are being “withheld in full” from a Freedom of Information Act suit the civil liberties group filed to shed light on bulk surveillance activities performed under the Patriot Act.

fooshorter's picture

Now that we know about this shit, Verizon is going to charge us a $30 Spy Fee on each line. I hear At&T is considering unlimited government intrusion play for $95/month

Gamma735's picture

How much will they charge to opt out of the spying program?  $300 a month?

TuesdayBen's picture

You can opt out by agreeing to accept a tiny square chip under your skin.

ptoemmes's picture

Becasue, I guess, corporations would never engage in aiding and abetting: terrorism, money laundering, propping up despots, fraud, corruption, etc.

You can trip over the ZH links documenting the reality, and tongue-in-cheek sarcasm, in the above statement.

pods's picture

They just tell you what you already know.  Thanks Verizon.

Same old thing.  Apologies after people have been railroaded by illegal information gathering followed by an investigation that backs up a warrant.

Rotten all the way up and down.
Unless of course you are one of those "If you have nothing to hide" people.

The government does whatever it wants, and then tells you only what you already know.


Ignatius's picture

320,000 data requests.  That's a lot of terrorists.  I had no idea that terrorist penetration of the American way of life was so pervasive.  Thank God we have the brave people to stir this evil caldron of terrorist soup.

WillyGroper's picture

<<<<penetration of the American

Well that part's right.

Dr. Engali's picture

I for one am looking forward to my RFID chip so that our overlords can keep track of me, and we can dispense with the pretense of living in a free and private society. 

F em all but 6's picture

They can chip my corpse. But make no mistake, after the collapse of the dollar, some form of exchange/currency will be needed for the payment of taxes. In comes a digital currency directly deposited into you. Its probably going to use Obammy care as the vehicle as NO person will be allowed the PRIVILEGE of medical care withput the chip. Think about it. Obammy care IS an operation of the federal taxing power. ALL entitlements are nothing more than extraordinary protections paid for with money from the public treasury. The very basis of the excise taxes withheld from your paycheck as Congress can tax the privileges it creates.


Its not outside the realm of rational thinking. Bypasses the chaos and allow the fed to gain absolute and direct control of everything. When you wipe your ass, the government will know which brand of ass wipe and how many (approved) sheets used. And when the fed determines that YOU have no further monetary use to them? Simple. Construct the chip from a toxic substance. Release of that substance (viral/bacterial) will be remotely triggered by a faceless government official.


Naw, they would never do that.

Debtonation's picture

I think I deserve to know if I was on their list despite the fact that I broke no laws.

Winston Churchill's picture

Are you  so sure ?

With 85000 new Govt. laws and regulations just last year.

Plus all the old ones never removed.

You are doing your musketry practice every Sunday aren't you ?

We are all criminals now,just some are in high security lockup(jails).

Agent P's picture

This makes me feel better about the $200 I send them every month. 

max2205's picture

Tbis message was pre approved...thank you

Renfield's picture

<<The vast majority of these various types of demands relate to our consumer customers; we receive relatively few demands regarding our enterprise customers>>

Says them.

Sounds like someone's marketing department has been told to get those corporate clients back.

Watch for more publicity campaigns around the theme: "We spy on THEM, but not on YOU, see? Cause you's special. You's one-uh US. And as long as you STAYS one-uh US, you won't GET spied on, see?"

Everyone wants to be in the special less-spying, less oppressed group. Makes people feel safe or something, I don't know. Tried and true.

JustObserving's picture
Talking about Snowden:


Snowden to ask Russian police for protection after US threats – lawyer

NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, will ask Russian law enforcers to protect him, his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, has said. The former NSA contractor is concerned about his safety after seeing death threats coming from the US.

Snowden, who is currently living in Moscow under Russia’s temporary asylum, has been following the threats against him in various American media.

“We are concerned with the situation around Edward. We see the statements made by some US officials containing potential and implicit threats and openly calling for causing him bodily harm,” Kucherena said.

One such statement published by BuzzFeed quoted a US intelligence officer describing in detail how he would have assassinated Snowden, if he “had the chance.”

“We would end it very quickly... Just casually walking on the streets of Moscow, coming back from buying his groceries. Going back to his flat and he is casually poked by a passerby. He thinks nothing of it at the time starts to feel a little woozy and thinks it’s a parasite from the local water. He goes home very innocently and next thing you know he dies in the shower,” the chillingly detailed fantasy said.

NoWayJose's picture

You see some obviously intelligent person in such a situation, yet they keep their same name, same hair style and color, same scruffy beard, same glasses, same high profile, etc.  In other words, they paint a target on their chest and then walk into harms way...

LMAOLORI's picture



I'm not worried we have the president's reassurance that they are not abusing the system because they're our friends and neighbors. No I'm not worried after his I'll pass this off to holder who will do nothing speech - SCARED is more accurate.




NSA Official: 'We Are Now a Police State


A Running List of What We Know the NSA Can Do. So Far.


RealityCheque's picture

Because, obviously Snowden has no backup plan to shine a further blinding light into the halls of power in the event of his untimely death.

If this is the intelligence standard of the average NSA agent, I'm not sure we have a huge amount to worry about. 

The Wisp's picture

And they are Charging us For the Service of Spying on US.

maybe i can request line item Billing and contest that Entry

DaveyJones's picture

Once again, the math tells it all.  Just adding up the numbers, and this is only one company, there is no way there's  enough time to follow the legal procedures.

Transparency sure is the word. Make an enemy that can be anyone anywhere, make a war that does the same and you have a government and laws that have gone insane.

It's not so much that they made this, it's why they're so paranoid that makes me feel the same  

Confused's picture

This might be a stupid question, as we all already know the answer. Assuming you are a customer of one of these companies, is it within your "rights**" as a paying customer to find out what information they have on you as an individual? Has anyone gone ahead and requested such information? (I'm sure google would reveal this, but at the moment I am too lazy to look). 

**- I know, this word is almost comical. 

TuesdayBen's picture

I think the gumint should be required to provide John Doe with a copy of his NSA 'profile' in the same format and with the same promptness as if Odoofus had requested Mr. Doe's profile.

But even more, I think the gubmint should be prevented from spying on citizens.  If it will not stop, the elected officials must be replaced.

Son of Captain Nemo's picture

Translation Verizon:==>

We fucked up!... We know we fucked up and it's hurting us big time both domestic and internationally!...

So how can we fix it?...

disabledvet's picture

I don't own that network...Verizon does. Same goes for AT&T. Still...

i'm not sure i want "swarm bots" in my Party Palace. PEACE OUT! PEACE OUT!

Pee Wee's picture

Stopped reading here," We do not release customer information unless authorized by law..."

No one is following any law, not the government, not the carriers, not even the secret executive branch court abomination trying to pose as constitutional, no one.

This lawless west interpretation of "laws" is the heart of the problem.

National Security has made a total joke of the rule of law.

Nice try, Verizon.

Son of Captain Nemo's picture

Nailed it!

And until the American people can look past the paystub as the "be-all and end-all" of their existence knowing full well that the only thing that matters are the rights and freedoms bound by law that they once held that are now gone are more valuable than any material "possessions" they hold -it will only get much worse!

Advoc8tr's picture

Indeed, they make it sound like they wanted to give the NSA everything but only gave what they were "authorized" to ?   Should have been "We do not release customer information unless compelled by law..."

RealityCheque's picture

They really should put a chip in my head. I'm ALWAYS up to no good.

Excelsior, to our mighty central planning overlords. Excelsior!!

thtmnbhndthecrtn's picture

I don't see anything on the report about all the Verizon husbands checking on their cheating wives and vice versa.

Colonel Klink's picture

For all those "third party" corporations just handing over vast quanitities of our data and information, I have one word,  COCKSUCKERS!

Catullus's picture

Whew. Thank god we have BYOD....