Verizon Says U.S. Data Requests Declined in First Half

Verizon Communications Inc., the largest U.S. wireless carrier, said law-enforcement requests for customer information from U.S. authorities declined in the first half of 2014 compared with a year earlier.

The New York-based company received almost 149,000 requests from U.S. federal, state and local authorities, a drop from about 161,000 demands a year earlier, according to a statement today. Almost half of the inquiries, about 72,000, were subpoenas and approximately 37,000 were court orders. Another 714 were wiretap orders, enabling authorities to monitor calls.

Verizon’s second report follows more than a year of controversy and debate about privacy and the reach of government, triggered by the leaks of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. To boost its own transparency, Verizon said last year it would start publishing the number of requests it receives.

In today’s statement, the company said it rejected a number of demands from law enforcement and didn’t produce some of the information sought through other requests. Verizon said it rejected as invalid about 3 percent of the subpoenas it received and about 4.5 percent of orders and warrants received.

“Verizon commonly pushes back against legal demands, forcing law enforcement agencies to narrow the scope of their requests, correct errors in their demands, or issue a different form of legal process before we will produce a specific type of data,” the company said.

Law Enforcement

The company also received a requests from foreign law enforcement agencies for customer data. Overseas, the company got the most requests from France, at 762, and Germany, at 670. In Germany, the Verizon received 981 requests for “lawful intercepts” regarding customers who made overseas calls from within Germany.

Germany decided to end its contract with Verizon next year in the wake of reports about international spy surveillance by the U.S.

Verizon has publicly taken a stand on the issue of bulk data collection, issuing in May its support of the USA Freedom Act, a bipartisan bill that aims to curtail the collection of American data and increase transparency surrounding surveillance warrants.

By contrast, the Reform Government Surveillance coalition - - whose members include Google Inc., Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. -- have objected to the bill, saying it doesn’t go far enough.

Verizon’s data suggests government agencies still lean more heavily on phone-service providers than Internet companies for information. Google, the world’s largest search engine, has said it received fewer than 11,000 requests for user data in the first half of 2013.

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