The revelations from Edward Snowden have created a growing cry for transparency against tech companies and government agencies from privacy advocates and even some within the telecom industry. The most recent being from AT&T shareholders who demanded that the company disclose its actions with customer data. AT&T outright refused that request.
AT&T, Verizon, and other tech and telecom companies have faced serious criticism after NSA contractor Edward Snowden released documents that indicated these companies sold user information to government spy agencies.
In a revolt against AT&T, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, AT&T shareholders, like the New York State Common Retirement Fund, demanded that the company fully disclose actions made with consumer data.
AT&T responded to the demands in a letter addressed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company asserted that it protects data and only distributes it “to the extent required by law” and that its dealings with international surveillance efforts in classified. However, the ACLU and some state officials didn’t take this claim lying down.
“It’s outrageous that AT&T is trying to block the shareholder proposal,” said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director at the ACLU of Northern California. “Customers have a right to know how often their private information is ending up in the government’s hands.”
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said “AT&T has not made it clear to investors or customers what data it shares or with whom. Customers should not be the last to know how their personal information is being used by governmental agencies.”
AT&T remains unreasonably rigid in the legalities of their disclosure allowances. Under federal law, companies that have such arrangements with government agencies are prohibited from disclosing certain aspects of information releases. Several telecom companies are fighting that prohibition in court, but AT&T appears to be complacent.