Yahoo calls report of secret email scanning 'misleading'

Other US tech firms said they have never received such a government request

Yahoo has called a Reuters article about a secret email scanning program "misleading," and said no such system exists.

On Tuesday, the Reuters article claimed that Yahoo had created the custom software program after receiving a classified U.S. government order. That software program is reportedly capable of scanning all incoming emails from Yahoo customers for information provided by U.S. intelligence officials.

However, on Wednesday Yahoo disputed the report.

“We narrowly interpret every government request for user data to minimize disclosure. The mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems," the company said in an email.

Yahoo's statement, however, didn't provide any further details. In response to the Reuters story, the company said on Tuesday, "Yahoo is a law-abiding company and complies with the laws of the United States."

The Reuters' article also claims that a former Yahoo CISO, Alex Stamos, left the company after learning that the secret email scanning program had been authorized.

Stamos, however, declined to comment. Several U.S. tech giants said they had never received any U.S. government request to conduct wide-scale email scanning.

"We've never received such a request, but if we did, our response would be simple: 'no way'." Google said.

Apple, Facebook and Twitter offered similar statements and said they would challenge such an order. Microsoft also said it had never engaged in the secret scanning of email traffic described in the Reuters article.

The NSA and the FBI have yet to respond to a request for comment. The U.S. government routinely asks that tech companies hand over customer data, as part of law enforcement efforts. However, the Reuters article claimed that Yahoo's alleged email scanning program may have gone far beyond that, allowing the government to search through all of it customers' mail accounts.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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