Verizon is the company that just willfully handed over the phone records of its AP journalist customers to the United States Department of Justice. And to further twist the knife, Verizon defended its crude actions.
Verizon spokeswoman, Debra Lewis, said that Verizon “complies with legal processes for requests for information by law enforcement, and don’t comment, can’t comment on any specific individual request or customer.” It’s tough to discern what is more frightening and fearsome; the fact that Verizon, with a large and loyal customer base, just gives away its customers phone records without question or curiosity, or that “law enforcement need not obtain a warrant from a judge to gain access to records.”
Verizon has a very tarnished history in regards to chucking around customer phone records like confetti. In 2006, Verizon, along with other phone companies like AT&T and BellSouth, complied with the National Security Agency in its campaign to compile a database of millions of phone calls made by Americans. A lawsuit was filed against Verizon where the company would have been fined $1,000 for each alleged violation of the Telecommunications Act.
“Federal law prohibits the phone companies from giving records to the government without a warrant,” said Bruce Afran, an attorney and law professor at Rutgers University. “There was no warrant, nor was there any attempt to get warrants, which is in violation of the constitution and the Telecommunications Act.”
Verizon betrayed its customers trust and, in classic corporate fashion, Verizon’s actions did not coincide with its words. Before spilling customer records to the government in 2006, Verizon went on record saying that they “put the interests of. . . customers first and has a longstanding commitment to vigorously safeguarding our customers’ privacy. . . . Verizon does not, and will not, provide any government agency unfettered access to our customer records or provide information to the government under circumstances that would allow a fishing expedition.”
The government’s chase after ”rogue” journalists has far surpassed that expedition. The government has become the fanatic Captain Ahab, trying to land some white whale of national security. The numerous government agencies obsession with the whale has caused it to lose sight of all humanity and decency and, if not careful, it will also suffer on its own spear.
And shamefully, Verizon has been playing into it. They promised one thing to its customers, but delivered the exact opposite.
Personal privacy is shifting from an inherited human right to an overly commodified privilege as flimsy as the basis on which the U.S. government and corporations maraud it.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.