According to three former Yahoo employees, the email accounts of 280 million people worldwide are being scanned by the US Government.
In an exclusive interview with Reuters, the former employees claim that last year, the US Government approached Yahoo asking it to build and implement a program that would search every email received on the Yahoo Mail network. Any emails received that contain a specific set of characters would then be passed onto the National Security Agency or the FBI.
This is the first recorded case of a US internet company agreeing to implement a US Government request to search arriving mail, instead of the normal procedures of tracking specific accounts or scanning stored messages.
Experts such as Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, Patrick Toomey, believe Yahoo should have challenged the surveillance order before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
“It is deeply disappointing that Yahoo declined to challenge this sweeping surveillance order, because customers are counting on technology companies to stand up to novel spying demands in court,” said Mr Toomey.
The US Government has overstepped the mark and invaded the privacy of 280 million Yahoo Mail account holders worldwide. While we can all get angry with the US Government for making the request, at the end of the day, Yahoo complied instead of fighting for the rights of its users’ privacy.
So how much of a threat to your privacy is this software that is scanning Yahoo Mail accounts and how does it work? The software operates by searching every email that is received via the Yahoo server, for a specific set of characters. It has not been disclosed just how many specific character sets are being searched.
Let’s assume one of the character searches was ‘bomb’ and you receive an email from a friend telling you how they have been bombarded at work. An alert would be triggered and your email captured for reading by the US Government. What if your boss emailed you about the company’s new ‘bombproof’ plan to raise sales by 70 per cent? Yes, that will also trigger it. Or how about an email discussion with your son about how the Essendon ‘Bombers’ played on the weekend? That too, would be captured by the US Government.
This isn’t the first piece of bad news to come out about Yahoo in recent months. Last month it was revealed that more than 500 million Yahoo accounts were breached in 2014, in what is being described as the largest ever hack of user accounts.
In recent years, Yahoo has been passed by its competitors in almost every facet of online technology. This latest privacy invasion is the nail in the coffin for me, and I would highly recommend all Yahoo Mail users to seek an alternative service.
Do you have a Yahoo Mail account? Will this latest report make you change email services? Do you have an email service worth recommending?