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Shareholders pressure AT&T, Verizon and other companies over NSA spying activities

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November 23
5:21 AM 2013

AT&T and Verizon Communications's shareholders were reportedly clamoring for more information regarding the extent of the telecommunications companies' cooperation with the US government regarding customer information. A Forbes newsmagazine report said this move would be just one of the many problems sprouting from revelations about spying activities conducted by the National Security Agency. It could be recalled that NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked private government documents detailing the agency's surveillance activities.

In their November 20 statements, shareholders said they have filed resolutions to require
AT&T and Verizon to publish semiannual disclosures regarding the type of information it had shared with the US government and the frequency of the companies sharing information with the US and other foreign governments.

In their proposals, Verizon and AT&T shareholders argued that if customers are not convinced about the telecom companies' commitment to privacy regarding personal data it had collected, Verizon and AT&T might face serious financial, reputation and legal consequences.

AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said about the shareholder resolutions, "As standard practice we look carefully at all shareholder proposals but at this point in the process we do not expect to comment on them." Verizon had not provided comment about the matter.

A study indicated in tech news and commentary website Techdirt revealed that US tech companies who have participated in the NSA surveillance program would be incurring direct losses of some USD22 billion to USD35 billion in the next three years.

Early this year, tech giants Google and Microsoft, Yahoo, and social networking sites Facebook and Linked had filed their motions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in order for them and other companies to publish information about surveillance orders coming from the US government for national security purposes. Some members of the US Congress also decided to step in and seemed to want to help out companies who have been ordered to fulfill such roles. Senator Al. Franken would be introducing a new bill that would allow companies to provide data online regarding its surveillance orders.

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