In the age of modern digital surveillance, AT&T can keep its silence about what it tells the government, while the FBI can make your laptop keep its silence even while it's secretly filming you.
Shareholders are pressing AT&T to disclose what it does with its customers' data in light of NSA requests. But AT&T has flatly refused to do so, and sent a letter Thursday to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to that effect.
The AP reported Saturday that AT&T said it protects customer information and complies with government requests for records "only to the extent required by law
Last month, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, an AT&T shareholder, filed a shareholder resolution calling on the telecom giant to be more transparent about the way subscriber data is shared with the government. The resolution calls for semi-annual reports detailing information about government data requests, similar to the transparency reports now being issued by Facebook, Google and Microsoft.
"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," the resolution states.
The resolution will not be addressed at the coming shareholder meeting, AP reported that AT&T said in its letter to the SEC.
News of AT&T's reluctance to be more transparent comes on the heels of more revelations about how the NSA uses computer malware to electronically spy on people. The FBI and NSA can use software to secretly turn on the laptop cameras of some people under surveillance, and can do so without activating the red recording light, the Washington Post reported Friday.
The Post's lengthy profile of a surveillance operation against a suspected terrorist cited a warrant in legal case files, which authorized an “Internet web link” that would download the surveillance software to the suspect’s computer when he signed on to his Yahoo account. The software would allow the subject's video camera to be turned on remotely without revealing the activation. Similar, earlier requests have been denied to the FBI as overly intrusive.