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Verizon to disclose government requests for customer data

Verizon Communications says it's making an effort to offer more information to the public about how many requests it receives from law enforcement for customer data.

Declan McCullagh/CNET

Verizon Communications said Thursday that it will disclose the number of law enforcement requests it gets for customer data in the US and abroad in a detailed report it will release twice a year.

The first of these reports, which will detail law enforcement request information for 2013, will be published in early 2014, the company said in a blog post. The company will then publish a similar report twice a year.

A Verizon spokesman made it clear that the company doesn't disclose customer information to third parties unless authorized by customers, but he also stated that the company is required at times under the law to disclose certain information to law enforcement.

"All companies are required to provide information to government agencies in certain circumstances," Randal S. Milch, an executive vice president for Verizon, said in the blog post. "This new report is intended to provide more transparency about law enforcement requests. Although we have a legal obligation to provide customer information to law enforcement in response to lawful demands, we take seriously our duty to provide such information only when authorized by law."

Milch added that Verizon has already been offering this information about such requests to the public for the past two years. But he said the new reports will make this information more consistently and easily available.

Verizon's reports disclosing this information will be similar to reports prepared by Internet companies, such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, and others, that detail the total number of requests they get from governments about their users. These reports include details about the number of subpoenas, court orders, and warranted requests the firms have received.

Verizon conceded in its statement that it will not be able to disclose some information that the government prohibits is from disclosing. For example, the company is legally prohibited from detailing requests from National Security Letters or FISA warrants.

Verizon's announcements comes only days after a federal judge ruled that a US National Security Agency surveillance program that collects phone record metadata on all US citizens is likely unconstitutional.

This lawsuit and several others, were filed after it became public in June that the NSA had been vacuuming up records of millions of phone calls made in the US under a top secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order. The information came to light in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.