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AT&T Rejects Shareholder Proposal For Increased Transparency About Data Shared In Government Surveillance Requests

The New York Times reported that AT&T has rejected a shareholder request that the telecommunications company be more transparent by publishing regular reports about the customer information shared in response to surveillance inquiries by the U.S. government. The company sent its response to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and to Thomas P. DiNapoli, a New York State  comptroller, who wrote the resolution seeking greater transparency.

According to the New York Times:

"AT&T said in the letter that matters of “ordinary business operations” should not be controlled by shareholders, but by managers and the board... AT&T also noted that if it were to publish transparency reports, the company would be limited to disclosing its responses to law enforcement requests for information like cellphone records; any information related to the government’s foreign intelligence surveillance activities would be classified. It noted that the so-called transparency reports published by technology companies like Yahoo and Google face the same limitations."

DiNapoli is the trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund. A similar transparency proposal was sent to Verizon Communications. Read the full text of the AT&T rejection of the shareholder proposal (Adobe PDF). You can also read the Mashable news article.

Interested consumers, and customers of AT&T (and Verizon) can sign this online petition demanding increased transparency. The online petition was written by the ACLU's San Francisco office. About 32,900 people have already signed the petition. You can learn more about government surveillance in this blog, at the ACLU website, and at the EFF website.

It is baffling why AT&T refuses to publish what it can about what it shares with the NSA and other government agencies. Other companies do. Customers' trust is definitely the issue, and AT&T's reponse so far only decreases this customer's trust. Maybe this 2006 article about AT&T is accurate: the company shares everything since NSA spy gear is installed on company premises; and the company is exposed legally.

Time to look for phone service elsewhere.


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