C.I.A. Pays AT&T for Big Data

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If you visit AT&T’s website, click on their privacy policy and scroll down to the second bullet—there you'll find what they deem their “privacy commitments." It reads:

“We will not sell your personal information to anyone, for any purpose. Period.”

Well, looks like the telecom giant may not be as committed to that promise as they say. Our partner The New York Times has reported that AT&T is in fact selling personal information—to the C.I.A.—to the tune of more than $10 million a year.

The deal keeps AT&T on the hook to provide records of calls made internationally, and the program is entirely voluntary. No subpoenas or court orders have been involved. The reasoning is to assist with overseas counterterrorism investigations.

We asked AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel about the matter, and he replied:

“In all cases, whenever any governmental entity anywhere seeks information from us, we ensure that the request and our response are completely lawful and proper. We ensure that we maintain customer information in compliance with the laws of the United States and other countries where information may be maintained. Like all telecom providers, we routinely charge governments for producing the information provided. We do not comment on questions concerning national security.”

Joining The Takeaway to weigh in is Susan Crawford, a professor at Cardozo Law School and the author of “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age.”