Your World. Delivered . . . to the NSA

Posted on May 13, 2006 - 10:43pm.

AT&T certainly put a new spin on their slogan "Your World. Delivered" with the recent news (USA Today) that the company willingly turned over the phone call records of millions of citizens to the National Security Agency who requested the information without a legal warrant. The NSA is now in possession of what one employee described as the 'biggest database ever built'. Verizon and Bell South (soon to be purchased by AT&T pending federal approval) followed suit in providing the NSA what they wanted. Only Qwest resisted, by simply saying 'no' and challenging the NSA to follow legal process and produce a warrant (the NSA just went away).

Remember that AT&T was in the news (Wired) in April when an employee leaked information that AT&T had allowed the NSA to build a private switching room that allowed them to monitor all the internet and phone traffic passing through AT&T Worldnet internet backbones. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has since filed a suit against AT&T over these privacy violations which far exceed the recent case of just passing on call records.

"The companies that have betrayed their customers' trust by illegally handing the NSA direct access to their networks and databases must be brought to account. AT&T needs to put a sign on its door that reads, 'Come Back With a Warrant,'
– EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl

This is all very troubling since AT&T and Verizon are on the verge of overturning years of telecommunications policy with Congressional legislation in the House (COPE - HR5252) and Senate (S. 2686). Neither of these pieces of legislation would exist if not for the heavy lobbying of these companies, there is simply no pressing need for this legislation. The telcos have spent millions buying the attention of elected representatives in state houses across the country and in the capital in Washington. They have spent millions more on 'astroturf' advertising campaigns touting the need for 'consumer choice' and 'competition' in video services. Last we checked, having one's privacy violated wasn't very high on any 'consumer choice' lists.

As part of their new video service, AT&T and Verizon are planning to run fiber to consumers homes providing far more capacity than the current copper wire, hence the slogan, 'your world delivered'. The question is, given these companies willful neglect and irresponsible treatment of their customer's privacy - are you willing to entrust them with the data generated by your TV viewing habits, your online activity, purchases, bank transactions, health and other personal information? We think not - and we think Congress needs to explain why they are about to reward these corporations with new favorable legislation. We must tell Congress that they need to:

1) Stop HR.5252 and S.2686. These bills are corporate give-aways and nothing more.
2) Stop the AT&T-Bell South merger until anti-trust implications can be adequately reviewed.
3) Thoroughly investigate the NSA and the telephone companies and enact/enforce legislation so these abuses can never occur again.

More Information

Section 2702 of Title 18, part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, provides that "a provider of ... electronic communication service [including telephone service] to the public shall not knowingly divulge a record or other information pertaining to a subscriber to or customer of such service ... to any governmental entity" without the customer's consent or a subpoena or court order. Under section 2707, carriers face civil liability, including minimum damages of $1,000 per violation, punitive damages, and attorneys fees. Government employees who participated in a violation also may face administrative discipline.

Quote above from Center for Democracy and Technology
Also see: EFF Lawsuit Against AT&T

ATT delivered