Comcast transparency report reveals 24k requests

Comcast published its first transparency report Thursday, outlining the more than 24,000 federal, state and local government requests for user data it received last year.

"With every request ... we make sure it complies with applicable legal standards before we respond with any information," the company's Chief Privacy Officer Gerard Lewis said in a company blog post announcing the report.


According to the report, Comcast received 24,698 requests for user data during 2013. Of those, 19,377 were subpoenas, which "typically seek basic customer account information" such as information to identify the subscriber, the report said.

The company also said it received 1,333 warrants, which require probable cause and a judge's approval. Of those, 253 warrants sought the content of users' communications.

Additionally, the company said it received 3,893 general court orders, which require a judge's approval and "typically seek historical information." It also received 93 requests for real-time information about email and phone exchanges and two requests for real-time access to the contents of those exchanges.

Comcast's report touches on government requests for subscriber information for national security purposes.

Due to reporting limitations imposed by the U.S. government, Comcast reported that, in 2013, it received between zero and 999 National Security Letters from the FBI seeking information for national security reasons.

In the first half of 2013 — a reporting term defined by the U.S. government — Comcast received between zero and 999 requests for content and between zero and 999 requests for noncontent under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

In Thursday's blog post, Lewis said Comcast hopes "this periodic reporting will keep our customers and the public informed about the government requests that communications and technology companies receive."

Comcast — the country's largest cable company and Internet provider — is the third major telecom company to release such a transparency report, following on the heels of tech companies that have been publishing information about government request for user data for years. Comcast said it would issue transparency reports twice a year.

After last year's reports about the National Security Agency's controversial phone data surveillance program, Verizon and AT&T — the two largest phone companies — released transparency reports, each outlining more than 300,000 requests for user data during 2013. The smaller CREDO Mobile became the first phone company to release a transparency report, announcing that it had received 16 requests for user data during 2013.