Yahoo Scanned Users’ Emails on Behalf of U.S. Intelligence

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Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It turns out that there are still people using Yahoo for email: the federal government. Yahoo, the internet giant mostly famous for doing nothing correctly and then getting bought by Verizon, reportedly searched “all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials,” according to Reuters.

The directive came from the National Security Agency or the FBI, and marks the first time that a technology company agreed to monitor all of its email traffic, rather than searching archived messages or a subset of specified users. It is unclear what data Yahoo turned over to authorities. Yahoo gave Reuters a terse statement that said the company complies with requests from law enforcement.

CEO Marissa Mayer and General Counsel Ron Bell, according to the report, did not involve the security team in the operation, instead instructing email engineers to build a program that siphoned off messages containing a specific string.

[Employees] were also upset that Mayer and Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell did not involve the company’s security team in the process, instead asking Yahoo’s email engineers to write a program to siphon off messages containing the character string the spies sought and store them for remote retrieval, according to the sources.

The sources said the program was discovered by Yahoo’s security team in May 2015, within weeks of its installation. The security team initially thought hackers had broken in.

When Yahoo’s security chief Alex Stamos found out about the program, he resigned. He now runs security at Facebook.