AT&T is the latest carrier to share data on government requests for its information, and once again, the sheer amount of requests is staggering.
AT&T revealed Tuesday that it received nearly 302,000 data requests in 2013 relating to criminal and civil cases. The demands -- made by federal, state, and local authorities -- include more than 248,000 subpoenas, nearly 37,000 court orders, and more than 16,000 search warrants. In 17,000 cases, AT&T provided no or partial data in response to those demands.
In addition to court-related demands, AT&T was also asked nearly 38,000 times last year to share both real-time and historical locations of its customers, while another 94,000 requests were considered "emergency" in nature. Just 22 demands were placed on AT&T by international agencies.
The report underscores a similar finding from AT&T's chief competitor Verizon Wireless. That company revealed last month that it received more than 320,000 data requests, including 164,000 subpoenas and nearly 71,000 legal orders.
Perhaps the big issue on the minds of US citizens, however, is the nature of demands made under the banner of national security. Given the rash of news surrounding Edward Snowden's leaks and claims that the US government has obtained information for the purposes of intelligence, many have a short fuse as it relates to national security requests.
According to AT&T, it received between 2,000 and 2,999 national security letters last year from the US government, requesting access on between 4,000 and 4,999 customer accounts. During the first six months of 2013, total content demands under the auspices of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act stood at between 0 and 999, while customer account information requests were between 35,000 and 35,999.
Like Verizon, the federal government banned AT&T from providing exact numbers on FISA and demands related to national security -- a move that has angered many major technology companies (such as Google and Yahoo) that have urged the US to allow them to release more information.
So far, it doesn't appear the US government is willing to let that happen.