Oct 19, 2018 | Updated: 04:34 PM EDT

Verizon Transparency Report Shows 150,000 Government Requests During First Half of 2014

Jul 15, 2014 03:50 AM EDT

(Photo : Robert Scoble/Flickr)

The U.S. government requested information on Verizon Wireless customers nearly 150,000 times during the first half of 2014, according to a Verizon transparency report.

Although that number may seem large, 2014's first half comes in behind 2013's first half of 160,000 government requests. Of the 148,903 total requests, 72,342 were subpoenas; 37,327 were total orders; 14,977 were warrants; and 24,237 were emergency requests. Of the total orders, 33,313 were general, 3,300 were pen registers/trap-and-trace orders and 714 were wiretap orders. Numbers were down across the board from the first half of 2013 except in the areas of general orders and pen registers/trap-and-trace orders.

The transparency report is Verizon's second ever, with the first one coming out this year.

Verizon didn't comply with all of the requests, however. The company stated in its report that it rejected as invalid 3 percent of subpoenas and 4.5 percent of the orders and warrants it received.

"We might reject a demand as legally invalid for a number of reasons, including that a different type of legal process is needed for the type of information requested. When we reject a demand as invalid, we do not produce any information," the Verizon transparency report reads.

"Additionally, it is not uncommon for us to receive legal process and in response produce some information but not other information. For instance, we may receive a subpoena that properly seeks subscriber information, but also improperly seeks other information, such as stored content, which we cannot provide in response to a subpoena; while we would provide the subscriber information (and thus would not consider this a rejected demand), we would not provide the other information."

On average, 90 percent of subpoenas targeted "three or fewer selectors," while 75 percent were limited to one selector. Verizon defines a selector as a customer identifier, usually in the form of an information point, such as a telephone number.

"On average, each subpoena sought information about 1.8 selectors. The number of selectors is usually greater than the number of customer accounts: if a customer had multiple telephone numbers, for instance, it's possible that a subpoena seeking information about multiple selectors was actually seeking information about just one customer," Verizon says.

Regarding general orders, which are handed down from a judge, Verizon states that it does not give law enforcement any stored data or communications such as texts and emails. Pen and trap orders involve providing law enforcement real-time access to phone numbers as they are dialed to and from a certain number, while wiretaps give the government the ability to listen to conversations as they occur.

Two-third of warrants Verizon received requested access to stored content, such as text messages and emails.

Verizon is not able to release data pertaining to FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) requests during the first half of 2014 because of a six-month moratorium enforced by the government.

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