ACLU of Michigan Says Phone Companies Broke the Law, Urges Public Service Commission to Investigate

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
July 26, 2006 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Michigan
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


AT&T and Verizon Perpetrated Consumer Fraud by Handing Over
Customer Information to Government, ACLU Says

DETROIT — Responding to reports that phone companies are turning over private details about Americans’ telephone calls to the National Security Agency, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan today filed a complaint with the Michigan Public Service Commission against telecommunications giants AT&T and Verizon.

“These companies have abused their public positions by violating the privacy rights of the average citizen who has done nothing more than sign up for phone service,” said Kary L. Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. “We are calling on the Public Service Commission to investigate so that the people of Michigan can learn the truth. Telephone companies should not be allowed to become surrogate spying agencies.”

In May, USA Today reported that the NSA has obtained stored customer records from the leading phone companies. Those records, which are usually referred to as CPNI, may actually contain far more detail about the customer than the number they dialed or from which they received a call.

In a letter to the commission on behalf of its 16,000 members as well as a group of doctors, lawyers and psychologists, the ACLU of Michigan wrote, “Due to the inconsistency of AT&T and Verizon’s information, statements, representations, and guarantees to its subscribers about the private status of their personal information with the reported disclosure of this exact information to the NSA, there appears to be well-founded concern that these telecommunications companies have perpetrated customer fraud and affirmatively violated provisions of Michigan law that guard against such conduct.”

The ACLU filed its complaint along with affidavits from six doctors, lawyers and psychologists who say they are especially vulnerable and are concerned that the breaches of the phone companies’ privacy policies may impact their confidential communications with clients and patients.

“What the phone companies have done is openly broadcast the numbers of my patients who are often times calling me in emergency situations, essentially compromising my ethical obligation to them,” said Dr. Micki Levin, a clinical psychologist in Bloomfield Hills. “My patients have an expectation and legal right to privacy whenever they see me or speak to me.”

More than 20 ACLU affiliates nationwide have called on their public service commissions, Attorneys General or other state officials demanding investigations to determine if local telecommunications companies allowed the NSA to illegally spy on their customers. The national ACLU has also filed a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.

The legality of the NSA spying program is now before the U.S. District Court in Detroit in a case brought by the ACLU. The ACLU is arguing that the secret program is unconstitutional and violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Judge Anna Diggs Taylor is set to make a decision in what is the nation’s first court proceeding as to the legality of the unwarranted spying program.

More information on the ACLU’s concerns with NSA spying is online at:

To read the letter to the Michigan Public Service Commission, go to:

By completing this form, I agree to receive occasional emails per the terms of the ACLU’s privacy policy.

The Latest in National Security

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About National Security

National Security issue image

The ACLU’s National Security Project is dedicated to ensuring that U.S. national security policies and practices are consistent with the Constitution, civil liberties, and human rights.