Search giant Yahoo has already been facing backlash over its massive account leak, but now an even more grim fact about the company’s practices has come to light. Yahoo has been illegally scanning emails of all of its unknowning users and sharing the information with U.S surveillence agencies for years, reports Reuters, citing three sources familiar of the matter.
Yahoo boasts about complete user trust and has been very proud about its transperency over the past years, but it has actually hidden the deal it made with the devil. The company, on request of the classified government order, has been alleged of building a custom software program that provides unprecedented access to consumer emails to intelligence officals.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer(alongwith general counsel Ron Bell) is the one who complied with the request and directed email engineers to create the program. The request from U.S intelligence officials, form the NSA or the FBI, asked the company to scan all arriving mails for a specific string of characters either in the body of the message or an attachment. And the system was not developed to spy on a specific group of stored messages or accounts but to scan the entire database of millions of user accounts in real time.
There is currently no update on the what string of characters was being searched by the government officials. The system has been reported to be ultimately functional, but there is no report on whether they ever detected the required string in an email or user account. And even of they did, what was it? And what was the outcome of the information gathered?
The program was initiated somtime back in spring of last year and was discovered by Yahoo’s security team in May 2015. The team initially thought that hackers have invaded and compromised their email security, but they were shocked to hear the truth behind the same. This also led to the resignation of Yahoo’s then-Chief Information Security Officer, Alex Stamos in June 2015.
A flabbergasted company spokesperson commented on the situation saying,
Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States.
Analysts are shocked about the bombastic reveal of this operation, and are of the opinion that this is a first-of-a-kind instance where the company has readily agreed to scan its own traffic on behalf of government benefactors. They’ve previously never seen such a broad a broad demand for real-time collection of web data that would require the tech giant to build a new piece of software.
This shocking discovery now leads us to believe that the U.S intelligence officials would’ve also approached other Internet companies with the same demand. Reuters says that the officials didn’t know what email account the target was using so they probably tried requesting access into the information bank of each and every email provider.
But, two of the largest e-mail service providers, Google and Microsoft both have denied any allegations and said that they never received any such access request from U.S intelligence officials.
The Google spokesperson sent forth an outright witty response saying,
We’ve never received such a request, but if we did, our response would be simple: ‘No way’
While Microsoft kept things simple, but took a jab at the shameful e-mail provider we’ve being talking about. The spokesperson said,
We have never engaged in the secret scanning of email traffic like what has been reported today about Yahoo.
Microblogging platform Twitter, in a statement sent to NY Times, also joined the tech behemoths to shame Yahoo for its practices and added,
We’ve never received a request like this, and were we to receive it we’d challenge it in court.
Cybersecurity expert, Edward Snowden, who’s been very vocal about the U.S governments intrusive nature, and their unfair command over massive amounts of user data, also joined to party. He took to twitter to ask the presidential candidates about their feelings regarding the same.
I wonder how the candidates feel about Yahoo spying on every single customer’s emails for NSA/FBI. Will they defend this shameful practice?
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 4, 2016
Now, you read everything we found about the illegal practice that Yahoo has got its hands dirty with. But, this is just mere speculation and there is still the lingering question about the existence of such a software program. And also will Verizon now be willing to spend a hefty $4.83 billion to acquire a technology behemoth who’s meddled with user data to help the greedy government officials.
If nothing, this is sure to damage consumer trust in Yahoo! like forever!