Frequently Asked Questions
The figures in this Report include demands for customer data regarding our Verizon wireline services (such as phone, Internet, or television), our Verizon Wireless services, Visible by Verizon, our telematics services, and our BlueJeans business. This report does not currently include statistics for TracFone Wireless.
In some instances, federal law and most states’ laws authorize providers to charge a reimbursement fee for responding to law enforcement demands for records or to recoup reasonable expenses incurred in complying with a wiretap order or pen register or trap and trace order. In most instances, however, we do not seek reimbursement for responding to law enforcement demands. We do not charge for responding to emergency requests and do not charge for responding to most subpoenas. When we do charge a reimbursement fee, our fees are permitted by law or court order and seek to recoup only some of our costs.
Yes, we do. Requests in civil cases comprise a small percentage of the total requests we receive. This Transparency Report focuses on requests from law enforcement.
Yes, on a semi-annual basis.
Federal law already places substantial reporting requirements on federal and state governments.
Each year the United States Attorney General and the principal prosecuting attorney for each state have to report the number of applications for wiretap orders, the number of orders granted, the types of communications intercepted, the number of persons whose communications were intercepted, and the numbers of arrests and convictions resulting from such interceptions. That information is summarized for Congress. See 18 U.S.C. § 2519(2)-(3). Similarly, the Attorney General must make detailed annual reports to Congress on the number of pen registers and trap and trace orders. See 18 U.S.C. § 3126.
The Attorney General also has to report to Congress each year regarding information obtained in emergencies, in some contexts. See 18 U.S.C. § 2702(d). And the Director of the FBI has to report twice each year to Congress regarding the number of National Security Letters issued. See 18 U.S.C. § 2709(e).
We pay careful attention to law enforcement demands to obtain customer data or to restrict access to information, and we carefully review each demand that we receive to ensure that it is valid. We seek to minimize disclosure of customer data by narrowly interpreting demands and may seek clarification, request modification, or pursue other options, including contesting a demand, if circumstances warrant. We also seek to be accountable and transparent by sharing information about how we handle demands and about our disclosure of customer data.
Verizon is committed to operating with respect for internationally-recognized human rights. For more information on Verizon’s approach to human rights see here.
Although we have not received blocking demands in the United States, we have received such demands in a handful of other countries. This is detailed in our International Report. We do not receive demands from governments to remove content.
No, Verizon has not received government orders to shut down or restrict access to our services or communications networks. If we received such a request, we would evaluate its legality and proportionality and strive to minimize any impact on customers’ freedom of expression and human rights. Such incidents would be disclosed in our semi-annual Transparency Report, consistent with the requirements of applicable laws.
Under federal law and the law in many states, the government does not need judicial approval to issue a subpoena. A prosecutor or law enforcement official may issue a subpoena to seek evidence relevant to the investigation of a possible crime.
Yes, in response to a subpoena, we only release the six types of information specifically identified in 18 U.S.C. § 2703(c)(2)(A)-(F): customer name, address, telephone or other subscriber number, length of service, calling records, and payment records. Some states have stricter rules. We do not release any content of a communication in response to a subpoena.
Yes, we may receive three different types of subpoenas from law enforcement: a grand jury subpoena (the subpoena is issued in the name of a grand jury investigating a potential crime); an administrative subpoena (generally, a federal or state law authorizes a law enforcement agency to issue a subpoena); or a trial subpoena (the subpoena is issued in the name of the court in anticipation of a trial or hearing).
Pen register or trap and trace orders require a wire or electronic communications provider (like Verizon) to afford access to “dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling information.” In response to a pen register order, we must afford real-time access to the numbers that a customer dials (or IP addresses that a customer visits). In response to a trap and trace order, we must afford real-time access to the numbers that call a customer. Such orders do not authorize law enforcement to obtain the contents of any communication.
A wiretap order is an order that requires a wire or electronic communications provider to provide access to the content of communications in real-time to law enforcement. The order can relate to the content of telephone or Internet communications.
A wiretap order is the most difficult type of order for law enforcement to obtain. Under the law, law enforcement may not obtain a wiretap order unless a judge finds that there is probable cause to believe that an individual is committing one of certain specified offenses and that particular communications concerning that offense will be obtained through the wiretap. A wiretap order is only issued for a specified period of time.
A general order requires law enforcement to offer specific and articulable facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records sought are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation. In federal court, such orders are authorized under 18 U.S.C. § 2703(d).
A pen register order or trap and trace order requires law enforcement to make a lesser showing by demonstrating that the information likely to be obtained is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.
To obtain a warrant, a law enforcement officer must show a judge that there is probable cause to believe that the evidence it seeks is related to a crime and in the specific place to be searched.
“Stored content” refers to communications or other data that our users create and store through our services, such as text messages or photographs. We require a warrant before disclosing stored content to law enforcement, absent an emergency involving the danger of death or serious physical injury. Non-content refers to records we create, such as subscriber information that customers provide when they sign up for our services. Non-content also includes transactional information regarding customers’ use of our services, such as the phone numbers that a customer called.
National Security Letters
A National Security Letter (NSL) is a request for information in national security matters; it cannot be used in ordinary criminal, civil, or administrative matters. When the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issues an NSL to a wire or electronic communications provider (like Verizon), the provider must comply. The law that authorizes the FBI to issue NSLs also requires the Director of the FBI to report to Congress regarding NSL requests.
The FBI does not need to go to court to issue an NSL. Rather, the Director of the FBI or a senior designee must certify in writing that the information sought is relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such an investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely on the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
The FBI may seek only limited categories of information through an NSL: name, address, length of service, and toll billing records. The FBI cannot obtain other information from Verizon, such as content or location information, through an NSL.
A FISA order is an order issued by a judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This Court was created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA). The FISA court considers requests by government agencies like the FBI or NSA to collect or conduct intelligence in the United States. The FISA court can issue an order compelling a private party, like Verizon, to produce intelligence information to the government.
A FISA order for content is an order that compels a service provider to give the government the content of certain communications carried on the provider’s networks. A FISA order for content could compel the provider to intercept voice communications or provide the government with stored content. For example, the government could seek a FISA electronic surveillance order (pursuant to 50 U.S.C. § 1805 or § 1881a) or search order (pursuant to 50 U.S.C. § 1824) from the FISA court to compel content from a provider.
A FISA order for non-content is an order that compels a service provider to produce call detail records or similar “transactional” information about communications carried on the provider’s networks, but it does not require the provider to produce any content. A FISA pen register or trap and trace order and a so-called Section “215 order” are FISA orders for non-content. For example, the government could seek a FISA pen register or trap and trace order (pursuant to 50 U.S.C. § 1842) from the FISA court to compel a provider to produce routing information. The government may seek a Section 215 order (pursuant to 50 U.S.C. § 1861) to obtain the types of information obtained through a grand jury subpoena or a court order.