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6 Sep, 2013 23:28

Yahoo publishes first transparency report, US tops snooping list

Yahoo publishes first transparency report, US tops snooping list

Following in the footsteps of other tech giants, Yahoo has published its first ever transparency report revealing how often governments request data about its users. According to the information, the majority of requests came from the US.

The report presents information on global government data requests that Yahoo received between January 1 and June 30 of this year. The move comes in the wake of the NSA leak scandal, following which technology titans in the Silicon Valley fell under criticism for helping governments spy on their citizens.

“At Yahoo, we take the privacy of our users seriously. We also recognize our role as a global company in promoting freedom of expression wherever we do business,” Ron Bell, Yahoo’s General Counsel, said in a Friday statement.

The document shows that US government agencies made 12,444 data requests from Yahoo, covering 40,322 user accounts.

The company disclosed at least some user data for 92 percent of requests. In 4,604 cases, Yahoo shared information on account content data, and in 6,798 cases it disclosed non-content data. The latter includes basic subscriber details such as those provided by users during their registration with Yahoo, including their name, “location, IP-address, login details, billing information, and other transactional information.”

A chart from the report showing data requests from the US. Image from http://info.yahoo.com

According to the document, Germany is ranked second on the list, with 4,295 requests from the government. Italy placed third, with 2,637 requests.

Yahoo underlined that less than 0.01 percent of its user accounts worldwide were involved in these requests.

“Our legal department demands that government data requests be made through lawful means and for lawful purposes. We regularly push back against improper requests for user data, including fighting requests that are unclear, improper, overbroad or unlawful. In addition, we mounted a two-year legal challenge to the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and recently won a motion requiring the U.S. Government to consider further declassifying court documents from that case,” said Bell.

From now on, Yahoo has vowed to publish transparency reports every six months.

The transparency issue rose to the forefront after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and NSA contractor, leaked classified documents detailing massive electronic surveillance by the US government and foreign allies that collaborated with them.

Snowden fled the US and began leaking classified documents to the media. A number of international outlets have published the revelations, made possible by the analysis of top-secret files. According to The New York Times, Snowden supplied reporters with 50,000 documents. The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald said at least dozens were, in his opinion, newsworthy.

The latest leaked documents reveal that US and British spy agencies have invested billions of dollars towards efforts to make online privacy obsolete, by circumventing the encryption methods used to secure emails, chats, and essentially most internet traffic that was previously believed to be protected from prying eyes.