AT&T becomes second telco to promise a transparency report

AT&T announced today it would begin in early 2014 to publish a semi-annual online report on the number of law enforcement requests for customer information that it receives, in each country of operations.

Coming 24 hours after Verizon revealed that it would release transparency reports, this announcement is an abrupt about-face for the company. Only two weeks ago, AT&T had made a request to the SEC that it allow the company to ignore a shareholder proposal calling for exactly such transparency.

“We applaud AT&T for joining Verizon in breaking ranks with the telco industry and providing much needed transparency on the scope and scale of government surveillance,” said Peter Micek, Access Policy Counsel. “With two of the world’s largest communications providers now committed to issuing transparency reports, there’s no excuse for other telcos not to follow suit.”

Access has long called for transparency reports in the telco sector. This transparency is critical to holding governments accountable for their violations of user privacy, gives users a better understanding of how their data are protected and shared, and will further help inform the public debate over government surveillance.

In particular, Access expects AT&T’s partners in the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue, a group of telecommunications operators and vendors who jointly address freedom of expression and privacy rights in the sector, to follow its lead and issue regular reports on their assistance to governments worldwide.