Contrary to a denial by Yahoo and a report by the New York Times, the company’s scanning program, revealed earlier this week by Reuters, provided the government with a custom-built back door into the company’s mail service — and it was so sloppily installed that it posed a privacy hazard for hundreds of millions of users, according to a former Yahoo employee with knowledge of the company’s security practices.
By what legal authority do the National Security Agency and the FBI ask Yahoo to search its users’ emails? Neither the government nor the tech company would say, after Reuters first reported on Tuesday that Yahoo “secretly built a custom software program” it used on behalf of the NSA and CIA to scan customer emails.
Finally, Yahoo’s possible betrayal of its users is another example of why whistleblowers and leaks to the press are so important. The US government considers this type of surveillance “legal” even though it shocks the conscience of many ordinary Americans and dozens of civil liberties groups have been attempting to have courts rule it illegal for years.
Yahoo last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by US intelligence officials, sources have told Reuters.The company complied with a classified US government directive, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency (NSA) or FBI, said two former employees and a third person who knew about the programme.