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Your Privacy Is Not Our Responsibility, Says Verizon Exec

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 34 comments

"If you're worried about it, do something about it. Take security on yourselves, and don't trust anybody else to do it."

At a recent security conference in New York City, that was the advice Marcus Sachs, Verizon's vice president of national security policy, had for people upset about Verizon's connections to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

Verizon is one of the large U.S. telecommunications providers closely linked to the National Security Agency's widespread surveillance and data collection programs, according to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

MORE:13 Security and Privacy Tips for the Truly Paranoid

News that Verizon supplies the NSA with customer phone records on an "ongoing, daily basis" broke in June 6, 2013. It was the first story to examine the top-secret NSA documents Snowden had recently handed to documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Like just about every other major U.S. telecommunications company, Verizon has come under heavy criticism for sharing customers' data with the U.S., despite the fact that these companies are legally obligated to do so. The law also forbids companies to reveal that they have been asked to turn over data to the government in the first place. 

According to Sachs, Verizon's first priority is to deliver its customers' messages — not to ensure their privacy.

"Don't look at us to protect your data. That’s on you," he told Tom's Guide at the Cyber Security Summit 2013, held on Sept. 25 in New York City.

"There are services out there [that offer privacy] up to a certain point," Sachs said. "You want encrypted phone calls? There's an app for that."

Sachs mentioned Wickr, a mobile app for sending self-destructing encrypted text, video, audio and picture messages, as an example.

Verizon's job, according to Sachs, is to provide reliable, accessible communications between its customers.

"People are more interested in [are my calls going through] than 'Are you a spy for the NSA?'" he said.

Information security specialists, Sachs explained, think of their job as having three parts: confidentiality, integrity and availability (often reduced to the acronym CIA).

Different companies, by nature of the services they provide, necessarily prioritize one of the three over the other.

Verizon, Sachs said, prioritizes availability. That means that if the company ever has to it will make sacrifices in the areas of confidentiality and integrity in order to ensure that it can continue to meet customers' messaging needs.

Email jscharr@techmedianetwork.com or follow her @JillScharr and on Google+. Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+.


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  • 9 Hide
    Parrdacc , September 30, 2013 5:33 AM

    Well big surprise!! A phone company not concerned about privacy. Thanks for telling us what we already know Big Red. We also know that you along with every other phone company at there are legally required to do so, but what we want to know is: Did you even put up a fight? Did you even ask why? Did just say OK, here you go? Are you not the least bit ticked that the NSA can just demand these records from you? This is your company and business not theirs after all, I would think anyone regardless would not take to kindly to being forced to turn over records that legally are yours not theirs. These are the things we want to know.
  • 9 Hide
    icepick314 , September 30, 2013 5:36 AM
    then why are you responsible for RIAA/MPAA?

    oh...that's right....$$$$
  • 6 Hide
    MajinCry , September 30, 2013 5:37 AM
    Welcome to capitalism!

    Now bend over so we can make some money.
  • Display all 34 comments.
  • 1 Hide
    The_Trutherizer , September 30, 2013 6:06 AM
    Surprising stance to take considering recent revelations regarding privacy issues. The right to privacy has long ago been taken away from individuals.
  • 2 Hide
    gggplaya , September 30, 2013 6:21 AM
    If i pay you a boatload of money every month for a service, i would hope that you keep my information private.
  • 4 Hide
    ddpruitt , September 30, 2013 6:56 AM
    I hate to agree (particularly since it's Verizon), but if you want your data secured you can't trust anyone else to do it. Your not paying Verizon for privacy your paying them to get your message from point A to point B as quickly and reliably as possible. Those maps they tout on TV show coverage not privacy.
  • 0 Hide
    brazuka331 , September 30, 2013 7:21 AM
    While I someone agree with what he said, Im sure he could have said it differently. He kinda sounded like a douche bag with the "its not my job" attitude.
  • 0 Hide
    brazuka331 , September 30, 2013 7:58 AM
    somewhat* autocorrect
  • 2 Hide
    gggplaya , September 30, 2013 8:27 AM
    No No No No, Verizon has a duty to it's customers, not the government. We're the ones paying the bills, we're the ones keeping them in business. So they should be making every effort to push back on the government, putting up roadblocks where they can, and questioning everything. Only if the government has a legal warrant (which is unconstitutional) should they give up any information. It's almost like verizon is just giving up the fight and doing whatever they can to stay out of the way. When they should be stepping in and giving the government a hard time whenever they can.

    True, you shouldn't rely on anyone to keep your data secure. But that doesn't mean Verizon shouldn't try as much as they can to keep it private. The statement he gave was basically like, it's not our job and we don't care about your privacy. We don't really care about you as a customer, we just want your money.
  • 1 Hide
    jjrambo , September 30, 2013 8:53 AM
    Mayjincry blames capitalism for an intrusive and forceful government strong arming private companies through threats, jail and or fines? Are you mad that it it didn't already happen being in a socialistic world, the government would create (or forcefully take over) a cellphone system and have no checks and balances on what they can and can not do? You communist scum and mental disordered ignoramus.
  • 0 Hide
    jjrambo , September 30, 2013 8:56 AM
    We allowed the government to get this intrusive by voting in these same people who promote government takeover of everything. Your losing your rights every day and do nothing but vote the same idiots in. When was the last time any of you masochist voted for a anti-intrusive government and freedom candidate like Ron Paul or Gary Johnson? Blame yourself idiots.
  • -2 Hide
    fimbulvinter , September 30, 2013 9:05 AM
    Capitalism is the root of all this but keep pissing your panties about the "red scare".

    Google "Ron Paul fleet footed". ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    JD88 , September 30, 2013 9:24 AM
    What a smug reply from VZW. I personally could care less what the NSA does with my information, but what I do care about is customer service, and Verizon doesn't know the meaning of it. They've taken a "we don't care because we don't have to" attitude for far too long. That's why I switched to AT&T. Not saying they are much better, but at least you don't get told to "take a number" when you walk into one of their stores.
  • 0 Hide
    jjrambo , September 30, 2013 9:42 AM
    Capitalism is the root of all of this, you are correct. Some where, someone decided to put in a 1080p screen with a 8mega pixel camera to line their financial pockets. And guess what, you bought it and you enjoy it! Fimbulvinter not sure what you are actually trying to prove with that googled term, really doesn't come up with anything of importance at all.
  • 0 Hide
    n2vibe , September 30, 2013 10:20 AM
    Everybody's correct that bothered to comment on this subject. The biggest problem is that ithere are so few of us commenting. The simpelist thing to do would be to drop verizon, send the message and then elitist VP's like this gy will be humbled or fired and the company will have to fight for their customers to stay in business. It's the way this country works, our voices are powerful, vote with your wallet if you don't want to go to the polls.
  • 0 Hide
    n2vibe , September 30, 2013 10:25 AM
    Oh yeah, by the way, I dropped Verizon and went to Ting Mobile. It seems to be a pretty good outfit.
  • 0 Hide
    Teddy Vetter , September 30, 2013 10:28 AM
    Wow, it amazes me to see the number of communist scum openly slamming capitalism... 30 years ago, one could easily look over the wall from west germany to east, and it was black and white as to which form was evil or not....(HINT it was communism... im only spelling this out as it seems there are too may kids with the iq of a rock)
    the problems were seeing in society today is caused by the form of communism/socialism that has invaded our society pretending to be capitalism...

    on a side note, this guy from verizion has convinced me that since the company cant uphold the 4th admenment... they will no longer suppy my cell phone service
  • 0 Hide
    jRaskell1 , September 30, 2013 10:33 AM
    "So they should be making every effort to push back on the government, putting up roadblocks where they can, and questioning everything."

    Nothing good ever comes from Corporate America's involvement in Government. It is OUR responsibility to push OUR government into prioritizing personal privacy. The problem is, the majority of people just don't give a damn about it. They're much more comfortable with the illusions of safety and security.

    If people don't want to go to the polls and fight for their rights, then we're all screwed regardless who we give our money to. Drop Verizon? Ok. Then what? This isn't a Verizon specific problem. ALL carriers are required by our government to hand them this data. Your only choice then is to just not use any of the services at all. Pretty crappy choice in my book.
  • 0 Hide
    bystander , September 30, 2013 10:56 AM
    Quote:
    n2vibe wrote:
    Everybody's correct that bothered to comment on this subject. The biggest problem is that ithere are so few of us commenting. The simpelist thing to do would be to drop verizon, send the message and then elitist VP's like this gy will be humbled or fired and the company will have to fight for their customers to stay in business. It's the way this country works, our voices are powerful, vote with your wallet if you don't want to go to the polls.

    You do realize that all carriers are required by law to do this, and they do it. Switching carriers is not going to help. You are also directing your anger to the wrong people. It is the government that is doing this, not Verizon.
  • 0 Hide
    n2vibe , September 30, 2013 11:05 AM
    I hear ya jRaskell 1, It seems to me though that with Verizon being about the biggest mobile phone service provider in the country, if every or at least a big majority of accounts were to drop them and use another service with the reason being Verizons lack of concern about their customers privacy, I'm thinking that would be a huge message to our govt and the other cell providers. Even the next cell provider(s) would almost be forced to consider some form of action. I know it's a pretty fancifull pie in the sky idea but I think it would probably work. I'm with you.....vote the disconnected, unconcerned elitists out of office ....but so few peeps will actually do that anymore. I don't know, I guess we need a true leader to run for office but all of those have a flaw or two that will get blown up way out of proportion and derail any attempt. The true masters of our scociety kinda know what they're doing. Money speaks loudest now.
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