According to reports, Yahoo Inc. developed a custom software which searched through the entirety of all incoming mail to Yahoo Mail inboxes. These searches were conducted in order to search for specific information as asked for by American Intelligence officials.
The tech giant willingly complied with classified demands from the National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), says three former employees.
This appears to be the first instance where US companies willingly complied with federal demands for information about all incoming messages. In the past, it has already been revealed that scanning previously stored messages, looking through a small number of accounts at a time, and other similar actions have become commonplace in the tech industry.
It is not yet clear what information specifically was searched for in connection with these programs. However, it is known that the searches were conducted via a character search which allowed the company to scan through the contents of incoming mail as well as attachments.
In a statement, the company stated “Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States,” but they were not willing to add to that.
It is also not known if Yahoo has been the only tech company put in this type of situation. This comes months after Apple decided not to create a system which would allow for federal authorities to unlock any iPhone.
Further, there have been numerous controversies surrounding cell phone companies and their protection of customer’s privacy. Perhaps most controversial, a blanket warrant was written out for Verizon Wireless, as was determined to be permitted by the PATRIOT Act, which in essence allowed for the search of millions of American’s cell phone information.
Statements by Google and Microsoft suggested that they have never partook or complied with these types of searches. A Google spokesman stated, “We’ve never received such a request, but if we did, our response would be simple: ‘No way.'”