In a masterpiece of understatement, the Associated Press reported that the United Nations has “expressed concern” over recent revelations that AT&T (the U.N.’s current, though probably not future, communications provider) allowed the National Security Agency to monitor all Internet traffic at U.N. headquarters in New York City. The United Nations paid AT&T $1 million per year for this service.
Yesterday, U.N. spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci said that the world diplomatic organization would discuss the spying issue with AT&T “over the coming months.” Also, the U.N. said that in the next few months, it will start accepting bids for new communications contracts.
According to Maestracci, the United Nations expects all 193 member states (and, presumably, any corporate entities it hires to provide telecom services) “to respect the inviolability of our communications.” She also said that the U.N. has in the past received “assurances from the U.S. government that they were not and would not monitor our communications.”
In 2013, after a report surfaced indicating that the NSA had gained secret access to the U.N.’s videoconferencing system, the U.N. said it had received a pledge from the U.S. goverment that it would not spy on diplomatic communications.
In addition to the United Nations, AT&T also lets the NSA monitor data from foreign emails, and 1.1 billion U.S. domestic phone calls per day.
Despite this, AT&T said in a December 2013 letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it shares communications data with the government “only to the extent required by the law.” And in a statement to the media earlier this week, AT&T insisted that “We do not voluntarily provide information to any investigating authorities other than if a person’s life is in danger and time is of the essence.”