Yahoo “secretly scanned emails for US authorities”
Yahoo secretly scanned millions of its users’ email accounts on behalf of the US government, according to a report.
Reuters news agency says the firm built special software last year to comply with a classified request.
“Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States,” the tech firm said in a statement provided to the BBC.
The allegation comes less than a fortnight after Yahoo said hackers had stolen data about many of its users.
Yahoo is in the process of being taken over by Verizon Communications in a $4.8bn (£3.8bn) deal. The telecoms provider declined to comment on the report.
Reuters reports that the scans were requested by either the National Security Agency (NSA) or the FBI, according to three sources – two of whom it says were ex-Yahoo employees.
The news agency says that the software scanned for a string of characters within all incoming emails, but adds that it was unable to determine what information was handed over or if other internet companies had received a similar demand.
US law allows the country’s intelligence agencies to order the release of customer data that they believe could prevent a terrorist attack, among other reasons.
Companies can challenge such orders behind closed doors in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
But Reuters reports that Yahoo decided not to fight the matter because it thought it would lose. It adds that some Yahoo employees were upset by that decision.
The whistleblower Edward Snowden, who previously revealed details about the US’s cyber-spying efforts, has tweeted in response to the unverified allegations: “Use @Yahoo? They secretly scanned everything you ever wrote… close your account today.”
A Yahoo operation in 2015 to scan the incoming email of its customers for specific information requested by the U.S. government was authorized under a foreign intelligence law, parts of which will expire next year, two U.S. government officials familiar with the matter said.
Reuters on Tuesday reported that the Yahoo program was in response to a classified U.S. government request to scan emails belonging to hundreds of millions of Yahoo users.
The revelation rekindled a long-running debate in the United States over the proper balance between digital privacy and national security.
The collection in question was specifically authorized by a warrant issued by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, said the two government sources, who requested anonymity to speak freely.
Yahoo’s request came under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the sources said. The two sources said the request was issued under a provision of the law known as Section 702, which will expire on Dec. 31, 2017, unless lawmakers act to renew it.
The FISA Court warrant related specifically to Yahoo, but it is possible similar such orders have been issued to other telecom and internet companies, the sources said.
In a statement on Wednesday, Yahoo said the Reuters report was “misleading” and that the “mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems.”
When asked to identify any specific way in which the story was misleading, or whether the operation described by Reuters had previously existed, Yahoo declined to comment.
“Yahoo secretly scanned millions of its users’ email accounts on behalf of the US government, according to a report.”
but, but..it was all legal!
“A Yahoo operation in 2015 to scan the incoming email of its customers for specific information requested by the U.S. government was authorized under a foreign intelligence law”
love the last sentence in the second article..duh..
and a not so subtle message from snowden:
“Use @Yahoo? They secretly scanned everything you ever wrote… close your account today.”