Verizon Claims Disclosing Customer Records To The NSA Is "Free Speech"

Verizon is currently being sued over allegedly disclosing customer records to the NSA, but are defending themselves by claiming that the disclosure is free speech protected under the first amendment, according to Ars Technica.

“In fact, Verizon basically argues that the entire lawsuit is a giant SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) suit, and that the case is an attempt to deter the company from exercising its First Amendment right to turn over customer calling information to government security services.

Communicating facts to the government is protected petitioning activity,” says the response, even when the communication of those facts would normally be illegal or would violate a company’s owner promises to its customers. Verizon argues that, if the EFF and other groups have concerns about customer call records, the only proper remedy “is to impose restrictions on the government, not on the speaker’s right to communicate.”

Verizon’s lawyers are the best lawyers ever. Ask Vonage. —MEGHANN MARCO

Verizon says phone record disclosure is protected free speech [Ars Technica]
(Photo:stopnlook)

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  1. d0x says:

    How is turning over customer information protected by free speech? I didnt give them my information under the assumption that it would be turned over to the Goverment.

    They never asked me if it was ok. Im sure if I had some of their personal information they wouldnt like it handed over.

    Wouldnt this make identity theft free speech as well? After all its just some letters and numbers.

  2. bedofnails says:

    Somewhere, John Locke just shivered.

  3. Buran says:

    @d0x: It’s not. They’re grasping at straws. There are laws that specifically protect records like this — and Verizon is trying to weasel out of admitting that it broke those laws.

    This is not like the decryption key brouhaha (09 etc) — a number can’t be used to harm anyone. Call records, on the other hand, are personal, private information. Besides, you can’t copyright simple facts like universal constants (which is what numbers are).

    And yet Verizon is trying to use the same argument — even when the circumstances are entirely different.

  4. GearheadGeek says:

    Anyone can abrogate his or her write to free speech, and many people do it every day. For example, members of the military agree that they will not speak about certain aspects of their service or certain military activities that are classified. Two parties in a confidentiality agreement promise not to speak about or publish certain information sensitive to one or both parties, but not necessarily illegal to discuss, etc.

    Verizon, like any megalomaniacal corporation run by Alberto-Gonzales style lawyers, is just attempting to convince everyone that they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, and you shouldn’t try to stop them. Witness the article from earlier today about Verizon trying to rewrite contract law on the fly to avoid having to live up to the terms of their own contracts.

  5. aviationwiz says:

    Uggh, sometimes, this company just makes me cringe, but I’m stuck with them, because their stuff just works, and very well at that.

  6. magic8ball says:

    *pffpfsplt* That was the sound of my head exploding. I hate crap like this with a deep and abiding passion that cannot be quenched. [Goes to make a donation to EFF]

  7. mac-phisto says:

    i’ll get the pitchforks – you get the torches.

  8. crawfishpie says:

    I guess I’m the only dummy. What’s NSA? And what are they hoping to find with my phone records?

  9. mac-phisto says:

    @crawfishpie: http://www.nsa.gov . think cia, but instead of spying on cartel leaders in colombia, they’re spying on you. these are the guys that are listening in under the president’s domestic surveillance program.

    & they even have a page for the kiddies! http://www.nsa.gov/kids/

  10. orig_club_soda says:

    Thats the same logic Digg users used when they gave away the HD DVD key! Seems fair to me. The only thing that matters is that MY numbers arent given away.

  11. Slytherin says:

    I’m surprised Verizon didn’t claim they are doing this “as a safety percaution for our customers after 9/11.” Every little thing nowadays to infringe our privacy is “because 9/11.”

  12. Coder4Life says:

    I am very sick of these companies giving away my information…

    I singed up for URL through godaddy and behold 2 weeks later. Snail Mail of crap to my house, and phone calls..

  13. superbmtsub says:

    I’m surprised to hear Verizon’s lawyers treat their company as a “citizen” claiming the First Amendment. Does that give Verizon Corp a right to a Social Security # (leading to SS benefits) or AARP benefits?

    Whoever this judge is has got to throw out Verizon’s pathetic defense in their face.

    A corporation is a non-entity which shares similar tax laws with legal residents. That’s about as close as it can get to being an American.

  14. bound008 says:

    companies actually don’t have first amendment rights in the exact same way that individuals do.

    commercial speech as it is called is regulated much more than “free” speech.

    maybe someone at verizon should read this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Hudson_Gas_&_Electric

  15. robbie says:

    So if the NSA asked my lawyer to divulge information I had provided in confidence, my lawyer would be able to do so because it is protected free speech? Um, no. It’s private. So are these data.

  16. pestie says:

    It’s time we revoked corporate personhood in this country. A corporation is not a person, and should have no right to free speech, or any other right not granted to it by statute. And while we’re at it, make it illegal for corporations to lie, and institute a corporate “death sentence.”

  17. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    If they’re citizens, maybe they should pay federal, state, local and city income taxes like the rest of us, property taxes like the rest of us, and social security/FICA taxes like all the rest of us.

  18. mac-phisto says:

    @pestie: i would tend to agree with that. the problem is that their personhood is the basis for their right to exist & enforce contracts. interestingly enough, i learned at the consitutional center in philly that this right was actually revoked by the supreme court in the 1800s, but a clerk recorded the decision incorrectly.

    @IRSistherootofallevil: they do pay income & property taxes – even sales taxes unless they are reselling the items. technically they pay half of your ss taxes, but most economists argue that you are actually paying the full 15%, not the 7.5%/7.5% split (since compensation is generally calculated by total cost of employee, including taxes, benefits, etc.).

  19. pestie says:

    @mac-phisto: If that’s true, it’s a simple problem to deal with. In the same piece of legislation in which we revoke corporate personhood, we also explicitly grant corporations the rights they need to exist in a reasonable, rational form (yeah, I know I’m dreaming).

  20. Trackback says:

    AM, Then FM dishes up some live Zevon; The Week in Rock tackles another set of songs — and out come the Andrew Ridgeley confessions; Consumerist tells us why Verizon has the most evil best lawyers on the planet, then proves corporate stupidity has literally no fucking limit; Py Korry suffers…