Yahoo Responds to Email Scanning Program

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Calls the report that it built a program to scan all its users' incoming email "misleading"

Yahoo responded to the news report that it was scanning all its users’ emails for U.S. intelligence agencies.

“The article is misleading. We narrowly interpret every government request for user data to minimize disclosure,” Yahoo said in a statement. “The mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems.”

Reuters reported Tuesday the internet company built and used a software program that searched all of its users’ incoming mail for either the National Security Agency or the FBI. The tool looked for a “specific set of characters,” possibly a phrase or an attachment, according to the report. Experts told Reuters the broad request was unique in its scope and because a tool may have been built to fulfill the request.

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According to the report, the company’s compliance led to upset senior executives and at least one, Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, left Yahoo.

The company previously fought a government request for data in 2014 in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, though it was fined $250,000 a day if it didn’t comply, according to a Washington Post report.  

“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, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. "If this surveillance was conducted under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, this story reinforces the urgent need for Congress to reform the law to prevent dragnet surveillance and require increased transparency.”

Apple, Google and Microsoft issued statements that they didn’t receive such requests and wouldn’t comply or would challenge it in court.