After years of allowing the government to collect its customers' metadata in secret -- and a few days after a federal judge called the practice "almost-Orwellian" and likely unconstitutional -- Verizon has announced that it will publish a semi-annual report on law enforcement requests for its customers' data:
To the extent permitted by applicable U.S. and foreign laws and regulations, Verizon’s transparency report will identify the total number of law enforcement agency requests received from government authorities in criminal cases.
In addition, the report will break out this data under categories such as subpoenas, court orders and warrants. Verizon will also provide other details about the legal demands it receives, as well as information about requests for information in emergencies.
This comes just a week after Verizon turned down a major shareholder's request that it make surveillance requests public, a move that indicated that Verizon would not be publishing any transparency reports in the near future. Perhaps the events of the last few days have helped to change its mind.
But would something like this have made the NSA's metadata collection practices public knowledge before Edward Snowden leaked them? Well, no, since Verizon was prohibited from saying anything in the first place. And don't expect the new transparency report to be completely transparent, either:
Verizon is working with the U.S. government regarding the detail the company can report on the number of National Security Letters it received last year. Similar to transparency reports published by other major Internet companies, Verizon’s report will not disclose information about other national security requests received by the company.
In other words, National Security Letters will be in there, but orders made under FISA will not. But hey, at least Verizon is doing something now, unlike AT&T, which is perfectly happy to let things continue as before.
The first report will go up early next year.