We have some news about companies turning over information to the government:
• Verizon has done it, AT&T has done it, and so have many of the big tech companies. Now Comcast has released its first transparency report. In the report released Thursday, one of the nation’s largest broadband providers discloses how many government requests for user information it received in 2013: Almost 25,000 criminal requests; 961 emergency requests; and 0 to 999 national security letters requests and 0 to 999 FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) requests. The government allows companies to reveal only number ranges when it comes to NSL and FISA requests — a recent concession that some see as either a small step/pretty much meaningless amid a time when NSA spying revelations have heightened interest in what kind of online and electronic user information the government is accessing.
• Meanwhile, records of what companies charge agencies for each demand for information might provide more insight, but not a lot. The Syrian Electronic Army, a hacking group, reportedly got a hold of invoices and emails between Microsoft and the FBI. They show that Microsoft charges up to $200 for each request, but the description of requests don’t reveal much; they only say whether they’re subpoenas, court orders or search warrants. There have been previous similar reports about how much the government pays to snoop for various reasons. For example, last year, the New York Times reported that the CIA pays AT&T $10 million a year for the company’s voluntary help in overseas efforts to fight terrorism.
Photo from Associated Press archives