Yahoo reports a drop in government data requests

There were 18,000 requests in the first six months of this year, down from 29,000 a year ago

The amount of personal information held by firms like Google and Facebook has made them ripe targets for data-hungry governments and intelligence agencies. But the bull's-eye on Yahoo's back may be losing its appeal.

Government data requests served on Yahoo have been falling. The firm received about 18,000 requests for user data from governments worldwide during the first six months of 2014, the company revealed Thursday in its third report on such matters. The highest number of requests, which generally deal with criminal investigations, came from the U.S. at around 6,700.

The requests may include content like emails, Flickr photos, Yahoo address book entries, even posts on Yahoo Answers. "Non-content data," meanwhile, includes information that is just as sensitive such as IP addresses, billing information, and the "to", "from" and date fields in email headers.

That's a lot of requests for personally identifiable and sensitive information. But it's lower than the numbers in Yahoo's previous reports. During the second half of 2013, Yahoo received about 21,000 user-data requests from governments worldwide. The U.S. came in first with nearly 6,600 requests.

And a year ago, there were nearly 40 percent more requests, at 29,000 total. Requests from U.S. governments were nearly double then at roughly 12,000.

Yahoo says it evaluates its requests carefully to minimize the disclosure of data. But still it disclosed data in around 12,000 instances in the first half of this year -- well more than half the number of total requests. The company disclosed data for about 5,600 of the U.S. requests.

The U.S. requests include national security letters and requests for content made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for national security purposes. But Yahoo and other companies are currently not legally allowed to say more about them beyond providing vague ranges of 1,000.

The falling number of requests could suggest that Yahoo is a less compelling company for governments to target in comparison to its peers, at least when it comes to "requests" and not surveillance or interception.

Google just last week reported a 15 percent spike in total government data requests, at nearly 32,000.

Facebook has not yet reported its data requests for the first half of this year, but its tally for the second half of 2013 was up slightly at around 28,000.

Dropbox's government data requests are going up too.

A falling rate of government data requests may also signal that intelligence agencies have other ways of pilfering people's data. Part of the cache of leaked documents from former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Ed Snowden indicated that U.K. intelligence agency GCHQ had surreptitiously captured webcam images of millions of Yahoo users.

The decline of government data requests targeting Yahoo could be due to any number of issues, said Karsten Weide, an industry analyst at the research firm IDC.

Or, "it could just be a fluke," he said.

Yahoo's government data request figures do not include Tumblr, which Yahoo acquired last year. The number of Tumblr data requests at the moment is small: just 194 received in the first half of this year; 462 for all of last year.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesYahooGooglesecuritysocial mediainternetprivacyFacebook

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zach Miners

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?