AT&T To Have Transparency Report on Customer Privacy

Hot on the heels of Verizon's announcement, AT&T has jumped on the transparency bandwagon and promises to provide a report in early 2014. The Dallas-based telecom says it will then publish another report six months later, and continue to release transparency reports twice a year.

"When it comes to governmental surveillance and requests for customer information, all companies are compelled to comply with the laws of the country in which they operate," reads AT&T's statement. "Those laws not only govern what companies must do when they receive lawful government requests, but often limit what companies can say publicly about the requests."

On Friday AT&T provided a list of what it can say, reporting that protecting customer information and privacy is "paramount," and that the company goes to great lengths to make sure customer data is safe and secure. This is done so in compliance with the laws of that country, the company said.

According to AT&T, when it receives a government request for customer information, AT&T makes sure that request is lawful and proper in that country. The company also works hard to make sure that the requests or orders are valid and that AT&T's response to them is lawful.

"We do not allow any government agency to connect directly to our network to gather, review or retrieve our customers' information," the company stresses. "We only provide wireless customer location data in response to a court order except in the rare cases in which an emergency compels us to do so."

OK, so what will the transparency report contain? According to AT&T, the total number of law enforcement agency requests received from government authorities in criminal cases. The report will also include info on the number of subpoenas, court orders and warrants, the number of customers affected, and details about the legal demands the company receives.

"We believe clear legal frameworks with accountability and oversight are required to strike the right balance between protecting individual privacy and civil liberties, and protecting the national and personal security, a balance we all desire," reads AT&T's announcement. "We take our responsibility to protect our customers' information and privacy very seriously and pledge to continue to do so to the fullest extent possible."

Verizon said on Thursday that it will publish an online report that will provide data on the number of law enforcement requests for customer information that the company received in 2013 in the United States and other countries. This transparency report will arrive in early 2014, and updated on a semi-annually basis.