Phone giant AT&T published its first “transparency report” on Tuesday morning, providing a snapshot of how often the government asks for data about its customers.
According to the report, which comes after Verizon published a similar document last month, state and federal agencies made 301,816 separate demands for data from AT&T in 2013, with the company rejecting 3,756 of those.
The report also specifies that governments asked for location-related data 37,839 times, including 1,034 “cell tower searches.”
Another significant element of the report is AT&T’s decision to disclose that it received 35-000 to 35,999 data requests from the National Security Agency. The NSA, along with the phone carriers and big U.S. tech companies, have been embroiled in an ongoing surveillance scandal touched off by ongoing leaks from former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden.
Until a recent court victory led by Google and Microsoft, it had been illegal for companies to even reveal how often the NSA has demanded information. In light of the ruling, companies can disclose the NSA data in ranges of 0-999 (as AT&T has done), but cannot provide any specifics about a given investigation.
The figures were published in a blog post, and come after both Verizon and AT&T announced in December that they would join the growing ranks of tech companies that publish so-called transparency reports — a policy inaugurated by Google several years ago. AT&T’s blog post provides only a short description, and only addresses the NSA scandal in an oblique fashion:
“Interest in this topic has increased in the last year,” states the company. Indeed.
Here’s a screenshot showing some of the key numbers, including a breakdown of the various legal instruments — NSA letters, National Security letters, warrants and so-on — that governments use to obtain information: