"While your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T," the company will tell customers in a policy revision that will go into force Friday.
The AT&T statement adds that the company "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 was "no linkage" between the updated policy and lawsuits claiming that AT&T violated customers' privacy by giving the U.S. government access to their phone and e-mail records. The intention is "to make our policy much easier to read, with more common language and less legalese," he said in an interview. "Our new privacy language does not expand access to user data for AT&T or anyone."