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AT&T to publish reports on law enforcement data requests

WASHINGTON--AT&T Inc. says it will publish reports on the number of requests for customer information that it receives from law enforcement agencies, the latest move in the telecommunications industry toward fuller disclosure amid debate over government surveillance programs.

The announcement Friday by the nation's largest telecom company came a day after rival Verizon Communications Inc. said it will make public the legal demands it has received. Dallas-based AT&T says it will publish a report twice a year online. The first one, covering requests received this year, will be out early next year.

The controversy has deepened over data-gathering by the National Security Agency. The NSA's collection of hundreds of millions of Americans' phone records under secret court order was revealed in June in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The program collects the number called, the number from which the call is made and the duration and time of the call.

Major shareholders of AT&T and Verizon demanded last month that the companies disclose their dealings with the NSA.

To the extent allowed by law, AT&T said its “transparency” report will include the total number of requests it receives from law enforcement agencies in criminal cases, a breakdown of the number of subpoenas, court orders and warrants received, the number of customers affected and details about the legal demands it receives.

“Any disclosures regarding classified information should come from the government, which is in the best position to determine what can be lawfully disclosed and would or would not harm national security,” AT&T said in a statement from Wayne Watts, general counsel.

“When it comes to governmental surveillance and requests for customer information, all companies are compelled to comply with the laws of the country in which they operate,” Watts said. “We take our responsibility to protect our customers' information and privacy very seriously and pledge to continue to do so to the fullest extent possible.”

AT&T has said previously that it protects customer information and complies with government requests for records “only to the extent required by law.”

Several major Internet companies, including Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Yahoo, publish periodic reports disclosing the number of requests from federal agencies and local police departments for personal data, which cover such things as email communications.

Until now, however, telecommunications companies haven't filed such reports.

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