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Government Requests for Verizon User Data Increased in 2013: Transparency Report

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Verizon provided user data to government agencies 321,545 times in 2013, according to its first transparency report. The report was released earlier this week to fulfill a promise made by the telecom giant in the wake of the NSA leaks which created a storm of controversy around data privacy in the US.

Of the total requests, over half were subpoenas from law enforcement agencies, and a further 71,000 were court orders. Verizon received approximately 1,500 requests for wiretaps, and a further 6,300 requests for real-time metadata.

Location data requests made up 35,000, almost 11 percent of the total, and of those 3,200 were “tower dumps” which contain all call data logged by a certain cell tower at a certain time. Verizon also responded to between one and two thousand National Security Letters, although the company is not allowed to give a precise number.

Verizon said that the total number of requests was higher than in 2012, though it did not provide details.

Verizon is the second telecom to produce such a report, while AT&T has committed to releasing its own report in the near future.

Hosting companies including Google and Microsoft have actively lobbied for the US federal government to relax restrictions on what they can disclose about government data requests, with a high degree of support from industry groups such as the Cloud Security Alliance. Both of those companies, as well as other hosts like Leaseweb, issued transparency reports in 2013.

The Washington Post reports that Verizon’s disclosure is unusually thorough, although some potentially helpful figures such as how many individual accounts were affected are not present.

The Verizon report details several areas in which its future transparency reports will be more complete, as it shoulders its share of the privacy burden which has weighed on American data storage and transmission companies.

President Obama addressed government data collection earlier in the week, but confidence in the privacy and security of data hosted in the US is yet to recover.

While Verizon is best known to many as a wireless provider and ISP, it has been gradually increasing its data storage business, and launched Cloud Compute and Cloud Storage services last year.

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