Telecom heavyweight makes a stand on consumer data access.
The telecom giants in the US don’t have the best track record when it comes to consumer privacy. In fact, they’ve typically taken it to opposite extremes, such as turning over cell phone information to the government behind their customers’ backs. But one case that has worked its way to the US Supreme Court has an unlikely champion on the side of individual privacy.
Remember Edward Snowden?
Verizon, one of the largest cellular service and internet providers in the country, wasn’t exactly on the freedom side of things in the infamous Edward Snowden whistle blowing case. Thanks to agreements put in place years ago, the government was collecting cell phone information on millions of Verizon customers every single day. So it’s somewhat eyebrow-raising that Verizon would now take part in a tech industry effort to curb how much and what type of information authorities can get without even more invasive search warrants.
The company’s concern stems from what they consider outdated legal precedent – literally from the 1970s – that allowed them to readily comply with information requests from customers’ land lines. However, as the amount and type of information has evolved with newer technology, law enforcement officials are still demanding information but telecom companies are no longer as keen to share it. Access to customers’ records includes everything from the content of text messages to the GPS coordinates to their last known location; that’s hardly the same thing as the very limited information a home telephone used to provide.
And there’s more…
While Verizon is the lone telecom to file a brief protecting its customers’ information, 14 other major tech companies like Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft have joined in. This particular case – and the resulting Justices’ decisions – pertains to things like email and web search history, too, which those stakeholders have a specific vested interest in protecting.