Barton Gellman wrote in a Thursday, May 11th Washington Post article about telephone company cooperation with the NSA spying program that Verizon Wireless (VW) said it was not involved in the program. This would distinguish it from its parent company, Verizon, which DID participate. I did not read Mr. Gellman’s story until later on Friday, May 12th.
That VW was not involved was news to me since on Friday morning I called 800 922-0204, which the Seattle phone book lists as ‘Verizon Wireless Customer Service.’ The manager I spoke with did NOT tell me Verizon Wireless was not participating in the NSA program. She told me VW was directing callers on this issue to 800 483 7988, Verizon’s (not VW’s) Customer Relations in California. At that number, the representative, Sandy, told me Verizon WAS participating.
So if Verizon Wireless is NOT participating, then why don’t its customer service managers make that clear to customers calling about this?? The miscommunication aggravates me no end because on the strength of what I was told Friday, I contacted Qwest & began the process of switching my 2 VW cell phone accounts to Qwest. I would not have done this if I’d had the information you just provided.
After first reading Gellman’s story, I visited VW’s website and found a corporate communications page which listed Jeff Nelson as company spokesperson for “Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs.” I sent him an e mail requesting confirmation of Gellman’s statement. This was Nelson’s response:
The Washington Post story is correct; Verizon Wireless customers are not affected by this situation.
I don’t know about you, but considering the amount of vague posturing and disingenuousness emanating from the public statements of the the three companies which are cooperating, I thought Nelson’s statement was disappointingly vague and perhaps deliberately so. I replied to Nelson that a nine-word statement on such a significant issue seemed a bit too low-key to register either with its own employees (some of whom don’t even seem to know VW is not participating) or its customers (many of whom mistakenly believe VW IS participating). I asked him if the company had released any written statement about its decision not to participate that would confirm and expand upon his own statement to me. This was his reply:
I’m the spokesperson for the company, and what I said is a statement from the company.
I guess that put me in my place. But not to be deterred by that minor slap down, I wrote back to him:
I understand that & appreciate what you’re saying.
But I’m disappointed you do not attempt deal with some of the other issues I raised about Verizon Wireless’ terribly confusing way of dealing with this issue & the fact that your customer service manager on Friday did not even know that VW was NOT participating in the NSA program.
It appears that you are saying that the company is releasing no other statement than the few words you wrote in your first response to me. If that is so, I personally think you’re making an error in communications strategy. It seems that both your staff and your customers are confused about company policy & I’d think you’d want to highlight what the policy is in a more public or direct way so there will be no confusion.
I suppose it’s possible that VW wishes to be low key about this out of deference to the parent company, which has a different policy. But by being so low key, it’s terribly confusing to your customers.
I’d like to know why VW is not participating. Did the government not ask them to? Or did it ask them and they refused? Further, are the three cooperating phone companies providing phone record dumps of both landline and cell phone calls? If so, I wonder why VW wasn’t included in the program? If anyone has further knowledge or thoughts about this I’d like to hear them.