Helping or Hindering? How Telecom Providers Respond to Government Surveillance Requests

Open Society Fellow Chris Soghoian shares his knowledge on the privacy policies of various telecom companies.

Internet, phone and web application providers all routinely disclose their customers' communications and other private data to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, despite claims that they protect privacy. Worse, firms like Google and Microsoft specifically log data in order to assist the government, while AT&T and Verizon are paid $1.8 million per year to provide real time access to customer communications records to the FBI.

It is true that the law gives companies very little wiggle room—when they are required to provide data, they must do so. But companies retain a huge amount of flexibility in the way they design their networks, in the amount of data saved by default, the emergency circumstances in which data can be shared without a court order, and the degree to which they fight unreasonable requests.

Most companies have a strict policy of not discussing requests for surveillance and how they handle them. Based on a combination of FOIA requests, off-the-record conversations with industry lawyers, and investigative journalism, Soghoian has uncovered the practices of many of these firms and discussed what consumers need to know in order to choose those providers that best protect their privacy.

Open Society Foundations deputy general counsel Kay Murray moderates the discussion.

Date: November 7, 2011
Time: (All day)

OSI-New York

Kay Murray and Chris Soghoian