Yahoo: U.S. Government Is No. 1 Data Hog
Yahoo! Inc (NASDAQ:YHOO) received 12,444 requests for user information in the first half of 2013 from the United States government, Bloomberg reports. That number is a bigger number than what was requested of Yahoo from any other country — and by a large margin.
Following the U.S., Yahoo reported that the next-largest requests came from Germany, with 4,295; Italy, with 2,637; and Taiwan, with 1,942. The information was reported on Friday in Yahoo’s first global transparency report.
Yahoo is only one of the many tech companies attempting to disclose as much data as possible regarding U.S. government requests for information in an attempt to stymie poor public reception and keep its valuable users – Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) have all pushed for similar disclosure practices. Yahoo general counsel Ron Bell explained in a blog post that the government requests only affect a small portion of the user base and are always done through legal means.
“Our legal department demands that government data requests be made through lawful means and for lawful purposes,” Bell wrote. “We regularly push back against improper requests for user data, including fighting requests that are unclear, improper, overbroad or unlawful.”
Bell also mentioned that the company has continually striven to put more information out into the public, including a recent two-year-long legal battle. He wrote, “[Yahoo] mounted a two-year legal challenge to the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and recently won a motion requiring the U.S. Government to consider further declassifying court documents from that case.”
Bell finished the blog post by writing, “We hope our report encourages governments around the world to more openly share information about the requests they make for users’ information.” So, as outrage grows against companies spilling users’ secrets to the U.S. government, Yahoo may be able to dodge the bullet and hang on to its business.