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AT&T to report government requests for user data

AT&T has joined Verizon Communications in promising to report on government requests for information about its customers, setting the stage for semiannual disclosures from both the dominant U.S. wireline carriers starting early next year.

The company’s announcement came just a day after Verizon had promised similar reports, a fact AT&T acknowledged. Earlier this month, AT&T had asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to support its removing a shareholder proposal about such disclosures from its annual proxy statement.

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In a statement, AT&T said it will report the total number of requests from law enforcement agencies in criminal cases; information about subpoenas, court orders and warrants; the number of AT&T customers affected; and details about legal demands that the carrier receives. The first such report will cover 2013 and will come out early next year, the company said in the statement, which was attributed to Senior Vice President and General Counsel Wayne Watts.

AT&T said when governments ask for subscriber data, it works to ensure that each request is legal, and it sought to reassure consumers it doesn’t feed information directly to authorities.

”We do not allow any government agency to connect directly to our network to gather, review or retrieve our customers’ information,” Watts said. In addition, AT&T only provides wireless customer location data except in response to court orders and in emergencies such as missing-child cases, he said.

Google, Twitter, and other Internet companies already release information about government information requests and have criticized the U.S. government’s collection of data about phone and online activity.

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