WHAT IS HAPPENING: Verizon Business Network Services has been ordered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to delivery “telephony metadata” on a daily basis, until July, to the National Security Agency.

WHAT GETS TURNED OVER: All call detail records for communications between the United States and abroad; or wholly within the United States, including local calls.

The “metadata” to be delivered includes:

  • Routing information, including originating phone number, terminating phone number, International Mobile Subscriber Identity number, International Mobile station Equipment Identity number
  • Communications “trunk” identifier
  • Telephone calling card numbers
  • Time of call
  • Duration of call

WHO’S AFFECTED: Customers using Verizon Business Network Services, formerly MCI Communications Services, now known as Verizon Business Services. The court order appears to center on mobile phone users, but does not exclude wireline customers. Verizon Communications declines (and is prohibited from) commenting on the range and scale of customers whose records are being delivered.


Use prepaid mobile phones. Individuals can protect themselves by buying prepaid phones. There is no customer identification generated by these phones, according to telecommunications analyst Phil Redman of Gartner Inc., the technology research firm.


Use a private phone system. An example is Silent Circle, based in National Harbor, Md. Subscribers download apps to their Droid or Apple iOS devices that create a secure communications backbone that passes through network servers in Canada. No records of calls, text messages or video communications between smart phones, tablets or computers are kept and all data is encrypted.

THE SOLUTION: “There are no call detail records created,’’ says Jon Callas, chief technology officer of Silent Circle, whose founders also include email encryption software pioneer Phil Zimmermann. “If you never create a record, then you can in fact turn over the records by saying: Here they are. There are zero of them.’’

The system can be used by both individuals and corporations. No records are created for any communications that stay between users on its Silent Network. If a call is connected to the public telephone network to a user outside the circle, the privacy is lost.

Individuals and corporations have to become “privacy survivalists,’’ says Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.