Dec 19 Verizon Communications Inc said it
would regularly report information on government requests for
customer data from now on, following pressure from activist
A group of investors, concerned about the role of telephone
companies in government spying operations, last month pushed
Verizon and AT&T Inc to disclose details on their sharing
of customer information with governments.
The Verizon move may put pressure on AT&T to follow suit.
Verizon on Thursday promised to publish online reports with
data on the number of law enforcement requests for customer
information it has in the United States and other countries in
which it does business.
It said it would publish its first report early next year
with data on 2013 requests and will update the information twice
a year after that to provide more transparency.
Previously, Verizon tended to disclose such data in response
to ad hoc requests from legislators rather than broadly
publishing the data. This would be the first time it publishes a
report that would be easily accessible to shareholders.
In its statement, Verizon also called 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."
Technology companies such as Apple Inc, Microsoft
Corp, Google Inc and Facebook Inc have
already disclosed the number of information requests they
received from governments around the world.
They have also said publicly that they would like to provide
more information to their customers.
However, telephone operators like Verizon have been much
less outspoken than their technology and Internet counterparts
in the matter, leading shareholders to propose a vote at the
operators' annual meeting to try to force more disclosure.
One of the proxy resolution's backers, Jonas Kron of
Trillium Asset Management in Boston, said Verizon's plan looked
positive, at least at first glance.
"It appears they've really embraced our concerns," Kron said
in a telephone interview.
But he added that the shareholder group had not yet spoken
with Verizon about its latest step and would need more time to
decide whether or not they would withdraw their request for a
vote at Verizon's springtime shareholder meeting.
The decision will hinge on factors such as how much detail
Verizon plans to publish about its interactions with law
enforcement, he said.
Earlier this month, AT&T asked regulators to let it ignore a
similar request from its shareholder. It did not immediately
respond to the Verizon announcement on Thursday.
Verizon said in a statement that all companies are required
to give information to government agencies in certain
circumstances and that its new report was intended to create