AT&T claims ownership of customer data
AT&T has been charged with violating the privacy of its customers by handing over data to the National Security Agency, a charge that it has hitherto denied.
Now, though, the U.S. telecom giant is revising its policy on client information and is arguing that as the provider of the telecommunications services, it actually owns the information it collects. What's more, the carrier has claimed that it has the right to share that information with government authorities should the need arise.
Previously, the company's position on whether or not such information belonged to it or to its customers was unclear, as it merely stated that AT&T would share information to "respond to subpoenas, court orders, or other legal process, to the extent required and/or permitted by law." The policy was last revised in September 2004.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, after all, filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T earlier this year, accusing it of helping the NSA wiretap and data-mine users' phone lines. On Friday, however, a federal judge in San Francisco will hear oral arguments on the U.S. government's motion to dismiss the lawsuit as the government contends that even if the NSA program is illegal, the lawsuit should not go forward because it might expose state secrets.
The timing of the latest policy revision thus appears to have coincided with the ongoing dispute, but the company said that it had been planning such changes over the past six months, since it merged with SBC Communications last November.
Copyright 2006 by United Press International