Report on Government Requests for Consumer Information- AT&T (2014)*
Outcome: Successfully withdrawn. Company will publish semi-annual reports regarding requests for customer information by U.S. and foreign governments.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that AT&T has provided millions of U.S. customers’ call records to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). “US Collects Vast Data Trove,” June 7,2013.
AT&T acknowledges in its corporate code of conduct that privacy is critical to the success of its business. Yet,the Company has not disclosed to customers and investors any information regarding the extent and nature of requests for customer data made on the Company by government agencies.
Controversy over U.S. government surveillance programs reportedly involving AT&T has spurred massive global press coverage, hearings in the U.S. Congress and the European legislature,and widespread calls for reform. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called the NSA surveillance program “a breach of international law.” U.S. Senator Ron Wyden said,”I have to believe the civil liberties of millions of American have been violated.”
Responding to growing public concern over these issues, major Internet companies such as Google, Microsoft, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Yahoo!, have published “Transparency Reports”, disclosing information on government data requests. Google and Microsoft have also filed in court seeking authorization to disclose further information to the public concerning these requests. AT&T has not done so.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that AT&T’s plans to expand its mobile network in Europe, including anticipated acquisitions, could face “unexpected hurdles” due to its co-operation with NSA consumer information requests. “NSA Fallout Hurts AT&T’s Ambitions in Europe,” October 30,2013,
Transparency in this regard is essential if individuals and businesses are to make informed decisions regarding their personal data. Privacy is a fundamental tenet of democracy and free expression. While AT&T must comply with its legal obligations, failure to persuade customers of a genuine and long-term commitment to privacy rights could present AT&T with serious financial, legal and reputational risks.
Resolved, Shareholders request that the Company publish semi-annual reports,subject to existing laws and regulation, providing metrics and discussion regarding requests for customer information by u.s. and foreign governments, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information.
Supporting Statement: In preparing these reports,the Company may, at its discretion, omit information on routine requests provided under individualized warrants. The reports should be prepared with consideration of existing Transparency (or Law Enforcement Request) Reports published by the major internet companies, and where applicable, include such information as (1) how often AT&T has shared information with U.S. or foreign government entities; (2) what type of customer information was shared; (3) the number of customers affected;(4) type of government requests; and (5) discussion of efforts by the company to protect the privacy of customer data.