Verizon and AT&T comment
on ACLU privacy invasion lawsuit
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service
May 27, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A spokesman for Verizon Communications
Inc. said yesterday that a
privacy invasion lawsuit filed against the company by the
American Civil Liberties Union is "completely without merit."
Spokesman Robert Varettoni also repeated the company's previous
statement that "Verizon cannot and will not confirm or deny
whether it has any relationship" to a classified National
Security Agency program.
The lawsuit against New York-based Verizon was filed in San Francisco
Superior Court yesterday along with a similar lawsuit against AT&T
Corp., based in San Antonio.
The two suits claim the telecommunications companies are violating
the California constitution's guarantee of privacy as well as
state law by allegedly providing the National Security Agency
with calling records of millions of California customers.
AT&T issued a statement saying that "we vigorously protect
our customers' privacy" but that "we can't comment on
matters of national security."
The statement, provided by company spokesman Marc Bien, said,
"If and when AT&T is asked by government agencies for
help, we do so strictly within the law and under the most stringent
The two lawsuits contend the alleged transfer of calling records
is illegal because it is not supported by a warrant or court order.
ACLU attorney Ann Brick said, "The laws of this state guarantee
every Californian a right of privacy. AT&T and Verizon have
violated the privacy rights of Californians."
The lawsuits allege that in addition to violating the state constitution,
the two companies' actions violate a state public utilities law
that bars the release of telephone call records without a subscriber's
The plaintiffs are the ACLU's Northern California, Southern California
and San Diego branches and 17 California citizens, including former
Republican Congressman Tom Campbell and syndicated columnist Robert
The suits ask for an injunction barring the companies from providing
calling records without a court order or warrant.
Nicole Ozer, the technology and civil liberties director for
the ACLU of Northern California, said, "This is much more
than data mining. This has been the systematic strip-mining of
the private calls of millions of innocent Americans."
A separate lawsuit accusing AT&T of violating the U.S. Constitution
and federal communications privacy laws by allegedly giving the
National Security Agency access to telephone and Internet communications
and records is pending in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
That lawsuit was filed by the San Francisco-based Electronic
Frontier Foundation on behalf of four Californians.
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