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Verizon Doesn't Care About Your Privacy

Verizon Doesn't Care About Your Privacy

It is unclear how many phone and internet companies have willingly ceded their consumers' records, but so far Verizon, AT&T and Qwest have all been named.

October 17, 2007 —

It was revealed Monday that three of the four major U.S. telecommunications companies have been turning over information about their customers to the FBI, often without a court order. At issue for Congress is the telecom industry's resistance toward cooperating with the investigation.  For consumers, the companies' willingness to turn over their private records, without being legally compelled to do so, is disturbing.

Verizon, the only company to come forward with an account of their involvement in the program, has admitted to complying with 94,000 FBI record requests, at least 780 of which it turned over without warrant. The requests included phone and IP records, and were not limited to counter-terrorism investigations. Verizon also says it was unable to gather "two-generation community of interest" records, which include data from individual suspects as well as everyone they call. The refusal was not based on privacy concerns, Verizon simply lacked the technology to gather them.

It is unclear how many phone and internet companies have willingly ceded their consumers' expectation of privacy, but so far Verizon, AT&T and Qwest have been named. A 2006 survey by CNET identified 15 telecom companies that claim to have not turned over information to investigators without warrant. Among them are Bell South, Comcast, Sprint-Nextel, and T-Mobile.

For those of us concerned with the prospect of losing our privacy in an increasingly digital, "post 9-11" world, it's important to pay attention to our media and communications providers' privacy policies. Certain companies like AT&T and Verizon have already established a reputation for being less protective of their customers data. Others like Bell South, Comcast, and Cox seem to be mostly standing up for their customers, and (until proven otherwise) should be applauded for it.

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