The following statement should be attributed to Wayne Watts, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel:
The debate about government surveillance programs and striking the right balance between protecting personal privacy and providing national security is a healthy one. It’s important that policymakers worldwide get it right so that people can continue to enjoy the benefits of technology and communications with confidence.
When it comes to governmental surveillance and requests for customer information, all companies are compelled to comply with the laws of the country in which they operate. Those laws not only govern what companies must do when they receive lawful government requests, but often limit what companies can say publicly about the requests. But here is what we can say:
- Protecting our customers’ information and privacy is paramount. Everywhere we operate, we go to great lengths to make sure our customers’ data is safe and secure. And we do so in compliance with the laws of the country where the service is provided.
- When we receive a government request for customer information, whether it’s a court order, a subpoena, or other method, we ensure that the request and our response are completely lawful and proper in that country.
- We work hard to make sure that the requests or orders are valid and that our response to them is lawful. We’ve challenged court orders, subpoenas and other requests from local, state and federal governmental entities – and will continue to do so, if we believe they are unlawful.
- We do not allow any government agency to connect directly to our network to gather, review or retrieve our customers’ information.
- We only provide wireless customer location data in response to a court order except in the rare cases in which an emergency compels us to do so. Examples include when law enforcement enlists us to locate a missing child or a kidnapping suspect, and they provide us assurance that a real emergency affecting human life exists.
To further our efforts to be as transparent as possible within the government guidelines in which we operate, like Verizon recently announced, we intend to publish a semi-annual online report that will provide information on the number of law enforcement requests for customer information that our company receives in the countries in which we do business. AT&T expects to publish the first report, covering information received in 2013, in early 2014.
To the extent permitted by laws and regulations, AT&T’s transparency report will include:
- The total number of law enforcement agency requests received from government authorities in criminal cases;
- Information on the number of subpoenas, court orders and warrants;
- The number of customers affected; and
- Details about the legal demands AT&T receives, as well as information about requests for information in emergencies.
Finally, in our view, any disclosures regarding classified information should come from the government, which is in the best position to determine what can be lawfully disclosed and would or would not harm national security.
We believe clear legal frameworks with accountability and oversight are required to strike the right balance between protecting individual privacy and civil liberties, and protecting the national and personal security, a balance we all desire. We take our responsibility to protect our customers’ information and privacy very seriously and pledge to continue to do so to the fullest extent possible.