Security

Yahoo says an ‘infinitesimal percentage’ of users’ data is shared with the government

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Yahoo’s general counsel, Ron Bell, wrote an impassioned response to reports that Yahoo is part of a U.S. government data collection program called PRISM today. Bell stressed that Yahoo pushes back on any government data-requests.

This week, a slide deck reportedly intended for an audience of top National Security Agency officials, was released by The Washington Post. This slide deck revealed a data collection program called PRISM, which called on top technology companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo to hand over users’ photos, videos, audio-files, connection logs, and more. Like many of the other companies named in the report, Yahoo says it never “joined any program in which we volunteer to share user data with the U.S. government.”

Bell goes on to say that Yahoo scrutinizes any government data-request it gets.

“The notion that Yahoo! gives any federal agency vast or unfettered access to our users’ records is categorically false,” said Bell in the statement. “Of the hundreds of millions of users we serve, an infinitesimal percentage will ever be the subject of a government data collection directive.”

He went on to say that when the company does provide data, it tries to give as little of it to the government as legally possible.

As we’ve mentioned before, if the NSA was creating a wide data-collection program, it likely wouldn’t tell the individual companies — from which it was gathering data — about their involvement. Secondly, there’s nothing to say that a program like this requires broad requests for information. The government could still ask for “specific demands,” which Yahoo claims is the only kind of request it has received.

Yahoo image via Yahoo! Inc/Flickr