After a recent report, users of the popular Yahoo Mail have lost trust in the company. According to Reuters, a custom program was developed by Yahoo that would search the incoming email of all of its users. The program was used for specific queries, which were given by officials of U.S. Intelligence.
Prior to the news being released, a statement was made by the company’s CEO, Marissa Mayer. Mayer spoke on how hard the company has been working over the years to win their users’ trust. “And, we fight hard to preserve it”, said Mayer. This was the opening to the transparency report for the company. In the report, the requests for user data by the government was documented. It was the program that subverted the trust of the Yahoo users, because it was never mentioned in their transparency report.
Yahoo’s dragnet surveillance of its email users was initiated this past spring. Former employees of Yahoo confirmed the information to Reuters. The employees went on to say that a classified government order is what led to the software’s development. In June of the same year, Yahoo’s Chief Information Security Officer, Alex Stamos resigned. The program was engineered through Ron Bell, Yahoo General Counsel, and Mayer. The security team of Yahoo discovered the program in May of 2015. Unknowing to Stamos and additional security members, the security team expected that their email security had been compromised by hackers. After discovering that the program was approved by Mayer, Stamos resigned.
Stamos is the current Chief Security Officer of Facebook. When an interview with Stamos was requested, a Facebook spokespersondeclined the request. Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, along with members of Congress have condemned Yahoo’s surveillance program. They view the government order that was given to Yahoo as being unconstitutional. One Congressman, Ted Lieu viewed the act as being “big brother on steroids.” Lieu strongly believes that it has to stop. “If true, the government’s directive to Yahoo to write a software program and search all of its customers’ incoming emails for certain content is a gross abuse of federal power”, said Lieu.
It is believed that Yahoo implemented the custom program between January and July of 2015. The company claims that the government requested at least 21,000 user accounts. The request was made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, while National Security Letters requested the content of almost 500 accounts.