- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2006

More consumers are calling telephone companies to inquire about their privacy policies since last week’s report that the National Security Agency has compiled a massive database of domestic phone records.

SunRocket Inc., a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) provider, had received no more than three privacy-related calls over the past six months, said spokesman Brian Lustig. But since the NSA story broke, the Vienna, Va., company received more than three dozen calls and e-mails about the issue.

SunRocket, which has about 100,000 subscribers, was not contacted by the NSA, he said.

The phone has not been ringing off the hook at Cox Communications, but the Atlanta company has heard from a “reasonable number of customers calling to ask if their information was shared,” said spokesman Alex Horwitz. Cox was not approached by the NSA.

At least one caller said he was signing up with Cox after hearing that his previous provider was one of the companies that shared its records, Mr. Horwitz said.

“Consumers certainly have the right to know if companies have turned over their personal information,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, adding that subscribers interested in privacy “might start thinking about switching.”

Vonage Holdings Corp., the nation’s largest VoIP provider, has averaged about two privacy-related inquiries a day since the story broke, which is more than normal but still negligible when considering the company’s 1.7 million subscriber lines, said spokeswoman Brooke Schulz. The Holmdel, N.J., company was not contacted by the NSA and does not provide customer records without a subpoena, she said.

Comcast Corp., which also was not contacted by the NSA, also saw a slight increase in inquiries over the past few days, according to a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia company.

AT&T; Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., and BellSouth Corp. would neither confirm nor deny their participation in the NSA program first reported last week by USA Today, while Qwest Communications International Inc. appears to be the only company contacted by the government that did not provide access to its customers’ call records.

AT&T; has received some calls and e-mails from customers since the story gained national attention last week, “but the volume was not heavy,” said Walt Sharp, spokesman for the San Antonio company.

Mr. Sharp did say the subjects of the inquiries ranged from “concern over the news reports” to approval for AT&T; for doing whatever it can to support national security.

Verizon had little or no increase in inquiries about its privacy policies, which can be found on its Web site, according to a company spokesman.

Spokesmen from Qwest and BellSouth either declined to comment or did not return calls.

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