A small wireless carrier has released the industry's first transparency report, opening a slender window onto the world of government data requests for the public's phone records and text messages.
The report from Credo Mobile comes as two major carriers, Verizon and AT&T, are expected to release similar reports detailing subpoenas and warrants for user data sometime early this year. Large internet companies like Google and Twitter have released such accounts for years -- but the telecoms were slow to follow suit, until the revelations of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden forced their hands.
Credo said in its report, issued Thursday, that "it may not be possible for CREDO or any telecom carrier to release to the public a full transparency report." A 2012 Wall Street Journal report suggested that the company could be in a dispute with the FBI over handing over a user's information in response to a secret government order relating to national security.
Those orders can legally be used to impose a gag order on recipients. A White House-appointed intelligence review panel that issued its report in December recommended that their use be curbed, a move the FBI opposes. Credo's report mentions the orders by name.
Credo has a small base of customers, who are attracted to its pledge to donate a percentage of phone charges to progressive non-profits. Its report said that it had received 16 government requests for user data overall, and supplied information in 14 cases.