Yahoo discloses government data requests, will introduce transparency reports from this summer

Yahoo discloses government data requests, will introduce transparency reports from this summer

Yahoo has spoken up to clarify claims made over the US government’s PRISM program two weeks after the news broke. CEO Marissa Mayer said Yahoo received between 12,000 and 13,000 requests from US law enforcement agencies between December 1, 2012 and May 31 2013.

However, the requests aren’t only from FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act). They include requests made in the cases of criminal investigations, most commonly concerning fraud, homicides and kidnappings.

Yahoo says that like most companies, it cannot lawfully break out FISA request numbers because those numbers are classified. However, Mayer said in her statement that Yahoo is “strongly” urging the federal government to reconsider its stance on this issue.

She said in a bid to ensure accountability, Yahoo will be issuing later this summer its first global law enforcement transparency report – which will cover the first half of the year – and will subsequently update the statistics twice a year. Given that Mayer’s former company Google is famous for releasing transparency reports, her time at the search giant could well have sparked such an introduction.

The details from Yahoo come hot on the heels of Apple, Microsoft and Facebook taking similar steps, in the wake of the PRISM scandal.

Apple revealed yesterday that between December 2012 and May 2013 the firm received 4,000-5,000 requests for user data from the government. Microsoft revealed Friday that it received 6,000-7,000 requests implicating 31,000-32,000 accounts in the last six months. Hours earlier, Facebook revealed its FISA numbers, claiming that up to 19,000 user accounts were queried by the US government.

Google and Twitter have criticized Microsoft and Facebook’s declarations because they do not distinguish between the types of requests made — and that fact applies to Apple, and now Yahoo’s numbers too, which do not break down the number of requests by type, government department or other variables.

You can find our full PRISM coverage here

Headline image via codepo8/Flickr

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