The government asked Verizon for customer data 320,000 times last year

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Verizon released its first transparency report Wednesday detailing the volume of government requests for customer data, which reached well over 300,000 in 2013 alone.

The wireless giant’s numbers reveal that communications providers like Verizon give the government vastly more data than Silicon Valley tech giants like Apple, Microsoft or Google.

“Our Report reflects the fact that telecom providers receive more government demands than companies in perhaps any other industry,” Verizon said in a blog post discussing the release. “Information about individuals’ use of their communications equipment has become a uniquely important tool for law enforcement to protect citizens and bring wrongdoers to justice.”

The total number of law enforcement requests for data came to 321,545, including 6,312 for tapping and tracing communications, 1,496 to wiretap calls specifically, and up to 2,000 secret presidentially ordered national security letters requesting data.

According to Verizon, only about 5 percent of the data requests it received in 2013 were for stored user content like emails, text messages, and live wiretaps. The company also said there were still government requests for data it was not allowed to reveal in the report.

The number of data requests for non-U.S. customers was significantly smaller, and only accounted for 5,392, of which almost 3,000 were for Germany alone. The majority of the rest went to other European nations like Belgium, France, the Netherlands and and the UK.

In the report Verizon stated there are circumstances in which it refuses government requests for customer data, but the company did not calculate the total number of those instances in this report.

Reports like Verizon’s come in response to the trove of National Security Agency surveillance programs leaked by former agency contractor Edward Snowden that began last year and are ongoing. Some of those documents indicated Verizon and other companies were cooperating with the signals intelligence agency by offering a ‘back door’ into their data networks.

Verizon and its counterparts have since denied the allegations, sent numerous letters to Congress and sat in on meetings with the president requesting the need for greater transparency about the role the companies play in government investigations.

Verizon announced it will be releasing the report semi-annually, and that it will continue lobbying the government for permission to release more information about data investigation requests it receives.

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