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After DiNapoli pressure, AT&T reports on wiretaps, data to governments

AT&T releases data after pressure was applied by

AT&T releases data after pressure was applied by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, shown here on Feb. 17, 2014. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

ALBANY — AT&T Inc. allowed the federal government to conduct wiretaps on just under 36,000 customers in the first six months of 2013, according to a report released after pressure from New York State’s comptroller.

AT&T’s “transparency report” shows the company facilitated the wiretaps under the federal Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office said. AT&T’s report shows the company also responded to nearly 3,000 requests for access to nearly 5,000 customer accounts for national security reasons seeking “non-content data.”

AT&T also received 22 requests from foreign countries in 2013 related to its global business in those countries, according to the report. Those requests can include blocking some Internet sites, such as those used in gambling or pornography, the report stated.

The company also participated in 301,816 demands from federal, state and local law enforcement in criminal and civil cases in 2013 seeking customer data. The information was obtained through subpoenas, court orders and search warrants, the report stated.

As a result of AT&T’s release of the data, DiNapoli on Wednesday withdrew his effort to force the company to disclose how much customer information it releases to governments.

AT&T declined to comment.

The data sought included telephone numbers, Internet provider numbers, Social Security numbers and birth dates, the report stated.

The company says it will issue reports every six months to update the figures.
In November, DiNapoli used the clout of the state pension fund’s investments in AT&T to file a shareholder resolution asking the company to disclose what information it shared with governments in the United States and in other countries.

DiNapoli had argued that customers deserved to know what information about them and their actions was being provided to governments. Wednesday, DiNapoli said AT&T’s release of the report substantially met his demand concerning the privacy rights of customers.

AT&T’s report states in part: “We take our responsibility to protect your information and privacy very seriously, and we pledge to continue to do so to the fullest extent possible and always in compliance with the law of the country where the relevant service is provided. Like all companies, we must provide information to government and law enforcement agencies to comply with court orders, subpoenas, lawful discovery requests and other legal requirements.”

“We are also gratified that the company has committed to release new information regarding these requests as changing government policy permits,” DiNapoli said.

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