Yahoo reveals US government made 13,000 requests for user data

Yahoo reveals US government made 13,000 requests for user data

Summary: The company joins Microsoft, Facebook and Apple in publishing data on surveillance requests coming from law enforcement agencies.


Yahoo has become the latest tech company to reveal how many requests US law enforcement agencies have made for access to its customers' data.

Online surveillance of citizens by the US government has been in the spotlight since allegations about the National Security Agency's (NSA) PRISM system were published earlier this month.

Apple: iMessage and Facetime are encrypted so we can't hand over info

Apple: iMessage and Facetime are encrypted so we can't hand over info

Apple: iMessage and Facetime are encrypted so we can't hand over info

It was originally claimed by The Washington Post that PRISM saw the NSA "tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading US internet companies", including Google, Apple, Facebook, and Yahoo.

These claims have since been questioned, and the companies named have denied any involvement. Some of them have been asking US authorities for permission to reveal the actual numbers of requests of user data that they receive from the government.

Yahoo said that between 1 December 2012 and 31 May 2013, it received between 12,000 and 13,000 requests, "inclusive of criminal, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and other requests", and said the most common of these requests concerned fraud, homicides, kidnappings, and other criminal investigations.

However, echoing Twitter and Google, Yahoo also called on the US government to allow FISA requests — the most controversial ones because the US government insists in secrecy around them — to be reported separately.

In a blogpost, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and general counsel Ron Bell noted: "Like all companies, Yahoo cannot lawfully break out FISA request numbers at this time because those numbers are classified; however, we strongly urge the federal government to reconsider its stance on this issue."

The company said that later this summer it will publish a "global law enforcement transparency report" which will cover the first half of 2013, and said it plans to refresh the report twice a year.

On Monday, Apple said that between 1 December 2012 and 31 May 2013, it received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests from US law enforcement for customer data. It also claimed that because its iMessage and FaceTime conversations were protected by end-to-end encryption, no-one but the sender and receiver could see or read them. 

Topics: Security, Government US

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  • So... 'direct tapping', but ~14,000 requests for data over the course of six months. I think that this is just a difference in semantics here.
    Evil Sandmich
  • So what....

    13,000 doesn't seem that many requests for a country with a population of over 300 million.......
    The Central Scrutinizer
    • RE: So what...

      How do you know 13,000 requests equates to 13,000 people? Couldn't each request be thousands of records? And this is just one site.

      And using your logic, do we have 16,000 terrorist annually using yahoo? If so, I'd say we have a much bigger problem with travel visas than anything else.

      Lastly, did they have a warrant for all 13,000 requests? Were they justified and verified independently by our third branch of government to ensure balance of power?
      • 13,000 requests for how much

        Good points, wish I had thought of them.
        Could one request be for "this days emails" or "all search words entered from PC in the metro DC area?"
        It sounds far fetched to me, but then so did PRISM.
      • @homeronline, to answer your very last question, of course not.

        We are talking about a government gone rogue with no desire to help or protect its people. I can remember years ago when talk of "Big Brother" was laughed about and scoffed at. It seems that since that time it has been growing into what we see today. It seems that George Orwell was taking a look into the future with his book "1984".
    • You have no way of knowing that 13,000 requests...

      is the equivalence of 13,000 people. Maybe the 13,000 requests were actually for 13,000 groups of people. Or that 50 of those were used for each state in the US or that even 1 was used for all 50 states' population. I didn't see anywhere that the number 13,000 was simply meant to mean "13,000 individuals".
  • These claims have since been questioned

    Standard Operating Procedure.

    Not that it isn't important to question everything, but a standard damage control tactic is to cast doubt on allegations. Just sayin'

    I don't have much time during the week with heavy job responsibilities but I would like to follow up on yesterdays suggestion that NSA funding is vastly more than anyone realizes.

    Google Rumsfeld Trillion. There was a time not so long ago when Rumsfeld was questioned about 2.3 trillion dollars that went missing from the Pentagon. Where did this go?

    My first thought was how could that be when the yearly budget was supposedly a quarter of that amount, but them I learned about CAFR and it all started to make sense.

    In any case, funding for NSA supercomputer capacity is vastly understated.
    • Surveillance rational

      The Pentagon has long assumed that its greatest enemy was the American public given that while they would not bow to an opposing army they could potentially be influenced to stand down through public opinion. In reality however, public opinion is pretty much meaningless. For example I recall a situation several years ago when the public wanted a withdrawal from Iraq and the clever response from the Pentagon was to sell a ‘Surge’ to the public.

      This elucidates why surveillance and propaganda have always been far more important to the powers-that-be than hardware.

      On the other hand hardware however is considered a critical national security issue for this reason: by the late 1930s little real progress had been made in pulling the country out of the depression. This problem was finally resolved through the buildup of infrastructure and resulting job creation related to our involvement in World War 2. Subsequently, after the war was over it was then realized that the economy could not continue to sustain itself without an ongoing investment in the military industrial infrastructure.

      It was deemed a requirement that in order to sustain the health of the economy it was necessary to sustain the corporations involved in producing weapons of warfare. This would only be supported by the public if there were a perceived need for defense and that this perception would need to literally go on forever. This could be accomplished in many ways which included hot wars, cold wars, and terrorist threats.

      Just the slightest hint that there might be a cutback in orders to the companies involved would have a tremendous effect on the stock market which could potentially throw the country back into a recession.

      I meant to discuss the reasoning behind surveillance and it funding but appear to have gotten off topic so I will end it here.
      • You may have strayed off topic . . .

        . . . still a very erudite exposition.

        Best regards . . LjVx
      • You are not off topic at all.

        You are correct. The reasons for our surveillance society is really related to the need to protect the military industrial complex. To restate this, it is mostly about the fact that the rich have gotten very rich and the poor have gotten very poor, and that this inequality has grown to be an increasing social dysfunction.

        This is harmful to everyone on every measurable metric of social and personal health. See the following TED talk for information about this.

  • So the gov't is worried producing the number of FISA inquiries...

    give away secrets? That is horsehockey. The same govt said this information is metadata. If it's not specific to anyone then it shouldn't be classified.
    • Power in Numbers

      The tech companies all say that they object to the restrictions of reporting of FISA requests. What if they all banded together and produced a collective number of FISA requests sent to all of the large companies? This collective total number could be reported through an anonymous news tip service, such as the New Yorker's Strongbox. ( ) Press releases from all the tech companies could lend credibility to this figure, while simultaneously being worded in a way that leads to plausible deniability.

      Would the government shut down all the big tech companies?

      The USA is no longer a democracy with built-in freedoms. The fact that we're having this conversation proves it.
  • The 4th Amendment

    Guarantees freedom in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, from searches without a warrant issued upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Or, at least it used to.
    • Government request data from yahoo

      The Fourth Ammendment unfortunately no longer carries any weight, the Patriot Act kissed goodbye to that!
  • True and false at the same time...

    It also looked at ALL the data, but only needed those 13,000 for legal matters so they made post facto requests to a Judge so they could be used as evidence. That's what the whistle blower said!
    Tony Burzio
  • The guy isn't hiding in China...

    ...because he let on that some e-mails and phone conversations were tapped under court order. We KNEW that already! What he said was, "I had access to all conversations from my terminal." THAT is what was new!
    Tony Burzio
  • I would love to know

    By what Constitutional authority are these requests being made. By what Constitutional authority are the feds telling private businesses that they cannot release FISA request numbers. I consider that these numbers should be in the public record; we have a right as citizens to know when the government is snooping illegally. The Fourth Amendment disallows this sort of surveillance, but the Obamanation cares not for Supreme Laws--they are making their own.

    And for those who loudly proclaim, "I don't care, because I have nothing to hide", you are missing the point entirely and need to grow the $&%# up and think like responsible adults. This is all WRONG. We are not guilty until proven innocent. We are not to be arrested without being charged with a crime. This is still the United States of America, and we are still a free nation unless we continue to play dead while the administration continues to create a dictatorship via executive orders.

    Surveillance and requests for records are the tip of a gigantic and all-encompassing iceberg. Don't focus on the penguins on top--worry about what is under the water.
    Iman Oldgeek
    • "By what Constitutional authority are these requests being made"

      The Patriot Act, I'm afraid, gives those in government the right to bypass our Bill of Rights whenever they can articulate the possibility that a threat exists along with an idea of who "they" might be.

      These are warrantless searches that do not require judiciary authorization or supervision. It is a very broad sword that can be secretly swung at will, and those struck are not afforded any constitutional protections.

      Security VS Liberty is a very difficult balance, made even more difficult when those with oversight have a history of dishonesty. Yes, you should be very concerned, and no, you shouldn't be shocked as they are not violating our laws, they have been given power to supersede them.
    • I would love to know

      I do not need to grown up because the Internet is not the center of the universe. The government or anybody can record cell calls unless encrypted. On emails, do not put something in an email that you would not read aloud in court or on a street corner. I agree with Tony B. that having a socially defective person like Snowden working for CIA or any sensitive position is scary. They need to bring back the ink blots to test people before hiring because Snowden would not have passed.
      • So you are saying

        that they should make absolutely sure that they do not hire anyone who has any tendency towards personal integrity or who might care about the welfare of others? I think that they already do this but occasionally someone slips through.

        The problem now is that more and more people are developing a higher sense of ethics. This is being forced upon them by the observation of what they have gotten themselves involved in.

        Additionally there is a new breed of youth arising in the world that doesn't see the world the same way as it has always been. They see from history that the current way of solving the world's problems has gotten and is getting nowhere.

        The youth are also unique in the sense that for the first time in a very long time they are part of a generation that has no real hope for the future. No vision of peace or stability. No jobs aside from the business of making war. They are intelligent enough to see that the economic system as it stands now with all of the wealth of the world being consolidated into the hands of the superrich as they see all of the liberties that their parents had fade away.

        This will make it increasingly difficult to locate and hire talent if the constraints are that they must be heartless and soulless.