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If you have a Yahoo Mail account, Yahoo has been scanning all of your emails to help U.S. intelligence agencies. At least according to Reuters. After receiving a “classified directive,” Yahoo built custom software to scan all of its email traffic for the NSA and/or FBI.
Reuters claims the governmental agencies were looking for a specific string of characters. Yahoo chose to comply with the order to search for this string of characters. And, as a result, scanned millions of emails, all without users’ knowledge or approval.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 4, 2016
We don’t know what that string of characters was, or who the authorities were targeting. We also don’t know whether this wholesale scanning of unsuspecting users’ email accounts proved successful. All we do know, assuming the former employees who leaked the story are telling the truth, is that Yahoo chose to snoop on its users.
Yahoo issued a statement simply saying, “Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States.” However, it is possible to abide by the law without agreeing to spy on your users in such an egregious manner.
Yahoo Goes Above and Beyond
There’s a danger we’ll all start thinking this is the normal state of affairs. Whereas in actual fact this is the first known instance of a company proactively scanning incoming emails at the behest of an intelligence agency. At least in the United States.
Other big tech companies have been quick to condemn Yahoo’s actions here…
Google said, “We’ve never received such a request, but if we did, our response would be simple: ‘no way’.” Microsoft insisted, “We have never engaged in the secret scanning of email traffic like what has been reported today about Yahoo.” Apple made it clear, “We have never received a request of this type. If we were to receive one, we would oppose it in court.” Facebook maintained, “Facebook has never received a request like the one described in these news reports from any government, and if we did we would fight it.” And Twitter stated, “We’ve never received a request like this, and were we to receive it we’d challenge it in court.”
So, it seems clear that Yahoo complied with a request that almost every other tech company in the U.S. would have turned down. Which puts the company in a very awkward position right now. Yahoo needs to explain its actions here, or its users will surely never trust it again.
Those thinking "I'm deleting my Yahoo account." Um, Yahoo reuses usernames. Deleting your account is also security issue. Maybe go dormant.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) October 5, 2016
Do you have a Yahoo Mail account? What’s your immediate reaction to the allegation Yahoo has been snooping on your emails for the NSA? Will you be closing your Yahoo account as a result of this revelation? Please let us know in the comments below!
Image Credit: Christoph Scholz via Flickr