This week we’re talking about. . . Yahoo

Tech giant faces allegations of helping US authorities scan customers’ email accounts

Hundreds of millions of Yahoo accounts were allegedly scanned as part of the FBI/NSA surveillance operation.

Hundreds of millions of Yahoo accounts were allegedly scanned as part of the FBI/NSA surveillance operation.


What’s Yahoo done now?

Fresh on the heels of the revelation that some 500 million Yahoo accounts had been compromised, the company is facing an even bigger scandal. According to a report from Reuters, Yahoo allegedly built some software that would scan incoming emails for certain phrases, in response to a classified request from US agencies.

That’s. . . creepy

Just a bit. According to sources, it was at the request of the FBI and National Security Agency. Hundreds of millions of accounts were scanned as part of the operation.

What exactly were they looking for?

That’s not yet known. Sources said the software was searching for a set of characters, which could be in the text of an email or an attachment. Yahoo’s email engineers were given the job of writing the programme that found the messages in question and stored them so they could be retrieved remotely.

How long was this going on?

Apparently since last year.

Did everyone just go along with this?

No. The decision to allow this to happen is what led to the departure last year of Yahoo’s chief information security officer Alex Stamos. He now works for Facebook. Other staff were also upset by the decision not to fight the order, Reuters said, because they thought the company had a good chance of winning the battle.

Edward Snowden must be having a field day with this

You’d think so. Back in 2013 there was a reference to this type of surveillance in documents he leaked.

He was on Twitter last night reminding US president Barack Obama that he had previously assured people the NSA wasn’t rifling through ordinary email, and raising questions about the legal implications of it.

So what now?

If you have a Yahoo email account, now might be the time to consider closing it.

But what about other email providers? Are they doing the same?

This is the first report of a service provider scanning incoming email for information, but it’s not yet clear if anyone else is involved.

Both Google and Microsoft have said they have not carried out similar broad-ranging searches. Google said if it had received such a request it would have refused. Microsoft did not confirm if it had ben requested to search email.