Yahoo Scans Your Emails for the Feds

By Faye Higbee

In an exclusive report, Reuters wrote that Yahoo has secretly created a special software program to read all customer incoming emails, looking for a set of specific information – at the request of a US intelligence agency.

Snooping for what?

Reuters reported,

“The company complied with a classified U.S. government demand, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said three former employees and a fourth person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to an intelligence agency’s request by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.

It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified…”


FBI, NSA? Who asked? What are they looking for?

Did the feds contact other Internet Providers to do this? Who asked for the information? NSA,FBI, maybe even CIA?  According to the Reuters article, the original request for information was sent to Yahoo’s legal team.

When Reuters requested information from the NSA, that agency declined to comment (no surprise there). But they have not determined for certain which agency requested the data.

Government software programs search for words that are called “selectors.”  A selector is a specific word or phrase recognized by the software.

Both Google and Microsoft have stated they did not receive a request like Yahoo, and wouldn’t have complied with it anyway. But that doesn’t mean this issue will go away – it may get worse. As encryption grows, so will requests from the agencies to break into it.

“It is deeply disappointing that Yahoo declined to challenge this sweeping surveillance order, because customers are counting on technology companies to stand up to novel spying demands in court.” Patrick Toomey, ACLU