AT&T is at it again. The Washington Post connects the dots.
"While your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T," the new policy states. "As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process."
The policy comes as AT&T and other telephone companies are under scrutiny for their reported cooperation with the government in spying on consumers. Yesterday, in a hearing before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, lawmakers pressed AT&T chairman and chief executive Edward E. Whitacre Jr. about his firm's involvement in sharing records with federal agencies seeking to track down terrorists. Whitacre repeatedly stonewalled during the heated meeting, citing "classified" information and saying his company followed the law, according to Bloomberg News.
So, if we are AT&T customers, our phone records, the clickstream we generate at the computer, and the shows we watch on AT&T's new "U-verse" video service are all AT&T's property, and the federal government has access to all of it. As we now know, all it needs to do is ask AT&T nicely.
"They are redefining the customer information as their property," said Charles H. Kennedy, a privacy and data protection lawyer at Morrison & Foerster LLP in the District. "If the company is going to say, 'Well, it's not your record; it's our record. You don't own it; we own it,' this may later be used to say it's not protected by the Privacy Act."
Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce Committee markup of the telecom giveaway that further enables this stuff continues Tuesday. AT&T would get economic and content control of everything that runs through its wires if Senator Stevens, the Committee Chair, has his way.
When this gets to the Senate floor, we know that Russ Feingold will vote for net neutrality. His statement at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on June 14 nails it:
"...the current landscape ... amounts to an emerging duopoly..."
"...without protections, Internet users could have fewer choices as only those content providers who could afford to pay the corporate toll-keepers would be able to offer a competitive level of service. We need to make sure that the Internet retains its crucial role as an open forum for the free exchange and dissemination of information.
But what about Herb Kohl? Hard to tell. The Dailypage's Kristian Knutsen tried to nail down Herb, but only found some typical "waiting to see which way the winds are blowing" equivocation. Kohl's spokesperson: "the issue of competition is something he is very interested in, but on net neutrality, we have not taken a position on it yet."
The Capital Times' John Nichols has been all over these issues for quite a while. In an unsigned editorial, he wrote:
There's little question that a united Democratic caucus could combine with principled Republicans in the Senate to defend net neutrality. But if so-called "new Democrats" in the Senate side with the telephone and cable lobbies, the information superhighway will become a toll road.
Have Wisconsin State Journal readers ever seen the term "net neutrality" or coverage of the telecom giveaway bills? Not yet.
- Barry Orton