Yahoo asks US for clarity on email scanning controversy

The company asks Director of National Intelligence Clapper to provide information about the government's request

Yahoo has called reports about its secret email scanning misleading.
Credit: Peter Sayer/IDG News Service

Yahoo is asking that the U.S. government set the record straight on requests for user data, following reports saying the internet company has secretly scanned customer emails for terrorism-related information.  

On Wednesday, Yahoo sent a letter to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, saying the company has been "unable to respond" to news articles earlier this month detailing the alleged government-mandated email scanning.

"Your office, however, is well positioned to clarify this matter of public interest," the letter said.

The scanning allegedly involved searching through the email accounts of every Yahoo user and may have gone beyond other U.S. government requests for information, according to a report from Reuters.  

However, Yahoo has called the Reuters report misleading. "The mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems," the company said.  

A separate report from The New York Times suggested the email scanning was done on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice and meant to probe for signs of code belonging to a foreign terrorist group.

The recent news stories on the email scanning have "provoked broad speculation" about Yahoo and U.S. government activities, the internet company said in its letter. Although Yahoo respects the need for confidentiality, the company is urging more transparency over how the U.S. government goes about legally obtaining users' private communications.

"Transparency underpins the ability of any company in the information and communications technology sector to earn and preserve the trust of its customers," the letter said.

Yahoo has agreed to be sold off to Verizon as part of $4.8 billion deal. But the internet company's value may have diminished on news of the secret email scanning and a massive data breach publicized in September.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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