"While your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T," states the policy, which takes effect Friday. "As such, AT&T may disclose such records" to "investigate, prevent or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud" and "situations involving potential threats to the physical safety of any person" as required or permitted by law.
AT&T spokesman Marc Bien said there is "no linkage" between the updated policy and lawsuits claiming AT&T violated customers' privacy rights by giving government agencies access to their phone-call and e-mail records.
The intention is "to make our policy much easier to read, with more common language and less legalese," he said. "Our new privacy language does not expand access to user data for AT&T or anyone."
AT&T, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. are accused in lawsuits of illegally cooperating with the U.S. government to detect terrorist activity using domestic call records. AT&T has said it has an obligation to assist the government on national-security matters and doesn't give out customer data to law enforcement or government agencies without legal authorization.
Verizon won't say whether it participated in such a program. BellSouth last month said it hasn't provided "bulk" calling records to the National Security Agency. AT&T lawyer David Carpenter on June 8 told a judge that the company may raise the defense that it is immune from liability because the government ordered it to cooperate.
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