Last week, CivSource reported on a new move from Verizon to publish transparency reports about the extent of government requests for user data. Companies like Google and Amazon have been publishing these reports for some time, but the move by a traditional telecom company was welcomed by privacy advocates. Shortly after the announcement from Verizon, AT&T released their own statement noting that they too will be publishing transparency reports.
The reports themselves typically provide aggregate numbers of requests, and the type of data requests made by the US Government. AT&T says it plans to publish the reports semi-annually with the first due up in the first half of 2014.
Both companies have been pushed by some of their largest investors including – public retirement plans to provide greater transparency into the extent of data requests by the US government. The first report will look back at the number of requests along with legal claims made in 2013.
In all, beyond aggregate data not much can be gleaned from these reports. Both AT&T and Verizon have said they will be working to provide as much information as they can within legal allowances and Microsoft recently went so far as to say it will challenge these requests in court. Watchers of the reports issued by Google and other tech companies typically note major shifts in the number of requests effectively creating an index of relative privacy over a given period. The number of requests has been on a steady uptrend over the past few years, based on Google’s transparency reports.