The company faces legal complaints brought by civil-liberties groups for its alleged collaboration in the Bush administrationâ€™s warrantless wiretapping and data-mining programs.
The new policy adds that personal account data â€œconstitute business records that are owned by AT&T.â€� It also said the company â€œmay disclose [a customerâ€™s] informationâ€¦ in order to investigate, prevent, or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud, situations involving potential threats to the physical safety of any person, violations of Service Terms or the Acceptable Use Policy, or as otherwise required or permitted by law.â€�
But the American Civil Liberties Union said that while AT&Tâ€™s change might help it reduce its liability for involvement in the US governmentâ€™s illegal spying, â€œprivacy policies do not trump the laws of the US or individual states.â€�
The group pointed out that federal law requires telecommunications companies to protect customersâ€™ personal information and to disclose it only as mandated by warrants or other legal orders. The ACLU further noted that several states also have enacted similar restrictions on the sharing of customer information.