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Yahoo Issues Its First Transparency Report 77

Posted by timothy
from the mere-tens-of-thousands dept.
Yahoo has joined the ranks of large online businesses like Google and Facebook who have made it a practice to disclose the number and kind (if not all the details) of requests they've received from government agencies for user data. Its first report (you can read it here) lists "12,444 requests from U.S. authorities relating to a total of 40,322 user accounts." Those numbers are only part of the story, though: at the bottom of the linked report, note this disclaimer from Yahoo: "The numbers reported above include all types of government data requests such as criminal law enforcement requests and those under U.S. national security authorities, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and National Security Letters (NSLs), if any were received. The U.S. Government does not permit us to disclose additional details regarding the number of requests, if any, under national security authorities at this time, or even to separate them in aggregate from other requests. Additionally, the government would not authorize us to separate NSLs from other government data requests or to express the NSLs that we have received, if any, as a range from 0 to 1,000—even though the government allowed other providers to do so in the past."
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Yahoo Issues Its First Transparency Report

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  • Heh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by SeaFox (739806) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @04:10AM (#44788415)

    I'm slightly amused the Yahoo icon on this story has a transparent background.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FriendlyLurker (50431)

      I'm slightly amused the Yahoo icon on this story has a transparent background.

      For all the good this transparency does to restore our confidence. The Snowden leaks/NSA documents clearly show that the NSA directly taps into the backend systems without any need to reque4st anything from these companies - Google, Yahoo, Facebook etc. The only time these companies receive extra requests like the ones being reported above is when the NSA want's to do more proactive monitoring or targeted individuals that requires hooking into the front end (monitoring search as you type etc). PR departm

    • Re:Heh. (Score:4, Funny)

      by Kozz (7764) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @10:39AM (#44789693)

      I'm slightly amused the Yahoo icon on this story has a transparent background.

      Yeah, the icon design finally got out of alpha.

    • It's the old logo. The new one won't be quite so transparent.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 08, 2013 @04:15AM (#44788433)

    We should be pissed about this. It reveals our fears about government overreach. They should not be digging into our private affairs regardless of where the data is stored. It is a human right to free from persecution over thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and intentions. Until a crime has been committed there should be no investigation and no violation of my space.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This was Yahoo not Myspace! :-P

    • by Sqr(twg) (2126054)

      Looking at the numbers, it is fair to assume that these requests could all relate to crimes. 12 400 requests in 0.5 years translates to about 8 requests per year per 100 000 population. (The homicide rate in the US is about 5 per year per 100 000 population, and that's not the only crime that might warrant acessing a suspect's email.)

      • So the number of requests disclosed and the number of requests you might expect from agencies that don't have the ability to force Yahoo not to disclose their requests kind of match?

        I don't feel particularly paranoid, but I find it relatively difficult to feel much in the way of trust. Also, getting first ever transparency shortly after seeing lots of news highlighting the reason to believe there's a large possibility of transparency theater feels like the decision making of a committee in a PR departme
        • by HiThere (15173)

          Also, is there any particular reason to believe that they are telling the truth? Or that the person who put the report together would even KNOW the truth?

          That said, yes, this feels like some kind of PR play. Just what kind I'm not sure.

          • I think Yahoo wants the non-terrorist/murderer majority of their customers to know that in any conflict between the aggregate of those customers and the government, the sympathetic intent and ideological loyalty of Yahoo is on the side of the customers even while the actions of Yahoo will be whatever the government forces them to be. It's likely quite true, but it also comes across like the person about to behead me saying "Sorry about this. I think you got a bum deal," before proceeding to do his job.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        I'm old enough to remember the days when we didn't have email, there were still crimes committed and the perpetrators were still found and aprehended. If they could manage to fight crime 40 years ago without tapping into email accounts, I'm sure they can manage it today.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Sure, 8 requests per year per 100,000 out of a population of 310 million. Of course, this only actually works if the entire population uses Yahoo!

    • by smpoole7 (1467717) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @10:09AM (#44789539) Homepage

      > Until a crime has been committed there should be no investigation and no violation of my space.

      You've hit the nail on the head. In the US, we used to have a principle: "innocent until proven guilty."

      The problem is, the more that the citizenry of the US come to believe in an all-powerful nanny state (forgive me for using the pejorative term, I haven't finished my coffee and can't think of a milder one), the more likely they are to scream, "why didn't the government *PREVENT* this from happening" ... whenever something bad occurs.

      (Corollary: the people also yell, "why didn't the government *FIX* this faster when it DID happen," but that's arguably off-topic.)

      The sad truth is that no politician, Dem or Repub, wants to be seen as having done nothing to prevent another 9/11. They know that their opponents will make hay about it. So, we get to live in a surveillance state.

  • One would have to be an idiot to believe anything any of these entities say. What a waste that Slashdot gives them credibility by pretending they're telling the truth.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      don't slam yahoo here, they are telling the truth as much as the spooks will allow -- and besides, where would yahoo get the cash to fund a long, expensive, landmark court battle against the infinite funds of the three letters and the government?

      • "Additionally, the government would not authorize us to separate NSLs from other government data requests or to express the NSLs that we have received, if any, as a range from 0 to 1,000" Did Yahoo just circumspectly say they have received between 0 and 1,000 National Security Letters?
      • by HiThere (15173)

        I'm sorry, but this doesn't feel like Yahoo telling as much truth as they are allowed. This feels like some kind of game. I'm just not sure WHAT kind of game. It could be that they want the government off their backs, it could be that they want to suppor the Republicans, it could be something else...and something else has a wide range of options.

        But it doesn't feel like straight reporting.

  • Too bad the people with the resources to fight it are so cowardly and greedy.

    • Too bad the people with the resources to fight it are so cowardly and greedy.

      Yeah, and not only are they cowardly and greedy, the voters expect individual companies to risk jailtime fighting for the rights of the voters on their behalf so that they can continue living in a stupor.

      • by Teun (17872)
        Indeed!

        Although large companies could and should pick up the fight, not only for morality but also because snooping for a third party is supposedly not their core business (...), the real power is with the sheeple that allow these laws in the first place.

        So pardon me but I don't feel in the slightest sorry for Americans on the receiving end of this abuse.

    • The people with the resources are either part of the problem or are sheep. Yes I am talking about the vast majority of the people you interact with on a daily basis. What's that? You do not understand? Every person in this nation is allotted a vote to decide who will speak for them in congress. Yet most of them can not be bothered to vote let alone get a hold of the people who work for them and tell them how they feel about important issues.Yes despite the way they strut around those people Senators and Rep
  • Never forget... (Score:5, Informative)

    by harvey the nerd (582806) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @04:29AM (#44788499)
    "...He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance."
    July 1776
  • Not believing it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    With secret orders approved by secret courts under secret laws that Yahoo cannot disclose anything about, these reported numbers mean nothing.

    • by geogob (569250)

      How was it again, what they said?
      If you are not doing anything wrong, you don't have to hide it and don't have to worry?

      It's a nice case of "look who's talking".

    • by lxs (131946)

      Well if they weren't allowed to specify it as a number between 0 and 1000 I think it's safe to assume that it's over 1000.

  • Large? (Score:2, Informative)

    Egads.

    Yahoo has joined the ranks of large online businesses. . .

    Yahoo aren't big? They just spent a $billion on Tumblr. I can think of several large companies near me, but the nearest $billion+ company headquarters is 1500 miles from me. I know that Yahoo isn't the size of Google, but by whose measure are they not large? Should that have read "OTHER large online businesses?"

  • "Additionally, the government would not authorize us to separate NSLs from other government data requests or to express the NSLs that we have received, if any, as a range from 0 to 1,000" If they're not allowed to say that it's in that range, presumably it must lie outside that range.
  • It's just metadata.

    In fact tell us who requested data and which users data was requested. It's just metadata. As long as we don't know what the actual user data is then there can't be any harm in it. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

  • BUT! Isn't California very quickly approaching the state where no company doing development there can credibly claim to be anything but an arm of the government? Since Yahoo forbade telecommuting a few months ago, it's hard to believe that they wouldn't fall to the leftist state's political pressure to monitor all user activity in secret. And how much can one really trust any transparency report issued internally? Corruption does not result from people acting contrary to their principles. It results f

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