Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ:US), taking action amid pressure from shareholders, said it will begin providing information on requests law-enforcement officials make for customer data.
The second-largest U.S. phone company will begin early next year with a report on 2013 requests in the U.S. and other countries where it operates, it said today in a statement. Subsequent disclosures will follow every six months. While the information will include police and U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation requests, it will leave out U.S. National Security Agency queries.
“We have disclosed much of this data over the past two years, primarily in response to requests from legislators,” said Bob Varettoni, a spokesman for Verizon. “The publication of an online transparency report is our way to make this information more consistently and easily available.”
Consumer-privacy advocates have been pushing for more public information after reports this year that major Internet companies and U.S. carriers have cooperated with government agencies by sharing some customer data.
Last month, investors including Trillium Asset Management LLC filed a shareholder resolution urging disclosures of government requests for customer information.
“While we still need to understand the details of what Verizon has committed to doing, Trillium and our clients are gratified that Verizon appears to have embraced the position that shareholders set out,” Trillium said today in a statement.
The transparency report will keep consumers informed, said Randal Milch, Verizon’s general counsel, in the statement.
“Verizon calls on governments around the world to provide more information on the types and amounts of data they collect and the legal processes that apply when they do so,” he said.
The disclosures show progress, Senator Edward J. Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in an e-mailed statement today.
“Verizon is taking an important step toward transparency, and I call on the other wireless carriers to follow its lead,” Markey said in the statement.
AT&T Inc. (T:US), the biggest U.S. phone carrier, has resisted a similar shareholder proposal from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, calling it impracticable and an effort to micromanage.
“While we have disclosed a lot of information in this area, we are always exploring ways to do more,” said Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman.
DiNapoli said Verizon’s decision puts more pressure on Dallas-based AT&T.
“Verizon deserves praise for responding to shareholder concerns and committing to issuing transparency reports,” DiNapoli, who is the sole trustee of New York’s $160.7 billion public pension fund, said in a statement e-mailed today. “AT&T should follow its lead and disclose what customer information it shares with U.S. and foreign governments.”
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