China Tells Yahoo All Your Drafts Are Belong To Us

from the who-needs-a-warrant-when-you're-so-cooperative dept

Yahoo has again turned over information to the Chinese government that lead to a user being jailed, a human rights group says, for the third time. What makes this case a little different from earlier cases of Yahoo acceding to the Chinese is that Yahoo turned over a draft email to the authorities, not one that had been sent or received. While it’s hardly surprising that Chinese authorities would lay claim to anything on a server of an Internet company operating in their country, the twist that it was a draft is slightly interesting, if for no other reason than many people’s perception that a draft might be more private than something they actually send out. Also, the fact that the government knew to request the draft would indicate that they’d been surveilling the user for some time — again, not a surprise, but perhaps indicative of the degree to which Yahoo cooperates. These sorts of issues are becoming more commonplace, as companies don’t seem to have too many qualms about going along with the government to maintain their piece of the Chinese market. There’s been a lot of posturing about this, but at what point — if ever — will the decisions to play ball with the repressive regime come back to haunt them?

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Comments on “China Tells Yahoo All Your Drafts Are Belong To Us”

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Nada (user link) says:

Government always watches YOU

It’s not only today a government watches their citizens but from the beginning. So if you want to say things the government don’t like, remember they have guns and judges, be smart and be untraceable.

Oh, by the way, they can trace my IP right now and AT AND T will give them any information they want.

Oh, I am not a target because I know nothing about the government, but I do see gas price is increasing, does that tell you anything?

Nada (user link) says:

Government always watches YOU

It’s not only today a government watches their citizens but from the beginning. So if you want to say things the government don’t like, remember they have guns and judges, be smart and be untraceable.

Oh, by the way, they can trace my IP right now and AT AND T will give them any information they want.

Oh, I am not a target because I know nothing about the government, but I do see gas price is increasing, does that tell you anything?

Ben McNelly (user link) says:


Heres where the real problems are, its the stupid people who use yahoo!… If your going to try and dissent against your communist motherland, heck if your thinking (draft) that you should have rights, and freedom of speech, you better not be using yahoo mail. Go with sombody who would never violate your privacy like that, like google. Oh wait… nevermind

lar3ry says:

Draft is always a bad word...

Some people might think that saving a draft is a nice feature. “Uh, I’m not ready to send this out… I may need to do a little research…”

Then GMail does the “auto-save to draft” thing. If you’ve been typing more than a minute or so, it will helpfully save your work as a draft, just in case your browser dies… you won’t need to retype much of what you’ve written.

I thought the accepted norm with email is that anything sent via email has all the privacy of a postcard. With that mindset, people forwarding off messages that they received (embarrassing the sender) are justified.

However, the “draft” part of this is scary. That little extra feature that your web-mail app is giving you can be used against you in a court of law. No Miranda warning… nothing. Type something, go to jail. Game over.

EMail that was never even sent is now something that your Web mail supplier can give to other people.

Now, I don’t think that China is in any way a bastion of civil liberties, but what China can get away with, any other country will get away with. And that includes a country that has just found out that its highest executive considers himself above the law and will invade the privacy of its country’s citizens without due process.

This is scary stuff.

Anonymous Coward says:


How could i forget tiananmen square? That’s not the issue though, I’m merely pointing out the fact that our “liberties” in the US are becoming at least a little bit more like communist China, where the government controls it all. It’s funny, I was a Bush supporter for a long time, but I’m realizing now that he is a big-government conservative, and that’s a huge contradiction which is leading to more and more government control over society, just like China (although not at ALL as extreme)

adum says:

I remember reading a post awhile back about Yahoo! refusing to allow the parents of a dead US service member killed in Iraq the ability to access his Yahoo! email account. They were interested in seeing what his thoughts were and who he conversed with in order to have a greater insight on there son whom they have not seen in almost a year and spoken to seldomly. I guess if the parents of that young man were a super power with a bankroll and a few billion consumers they would of had no problem getting the access they wanted.

Kyle says:

Isn’t it interesting though… A web service such as Yahoo gets money from advertising which is directly related to the users of the service. Even though they please the Chinese govt with this move, the certainly piss off a lot of users by betraying their trust.

Google on the other hand is usually reluctant to give such information to authorities.

PS. The phrase “all your base are belongs to us” is actually from a Japanese game, not Chinese.

guardsman85 says:

The Devil made me sign up for Yahoo!

Everyone want’s to B!tc# about corporations not following the law! Ever read Yahoo’s Terms of Service or Privacy Policy? Anyone who signs up for a Yahoo account must agree to them. Just because you don’t read it before you click agree doesn’t mean they don’t apply to you!

Snippet from the Terms:

“You acknowledge, consent and agree that Yahoo! may access, preserve and disclose your account information and Content if required to do so by law or in a good faith belief that such access preservation or disclosure is reasonably necessary to: (a) comply with legal process; (b) enforce the TOS; (c) respond to claims that any Content violates the rights of third parties; (d) respond to your requests for customer service; or (e) protect the rights, property or personal safety of Yahoo!, its users and the public.”

Snippet from the Privacy Policy:

“Yahoo! does not rent, sell, or share personal information about you with other people or nonaffiliated companies except to provide products or services you’ve requested, when we have your permission, or under the following circumstances:

* We respond to subpoenas, court orders, or legal process, or to establish or exercise our legal rights or defend against legal claims;
* We believe it is necessary to share information in order to investigate, prevent, or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud, situations involving potential threats to the physical safety of any person, violations of Yahoo!’s terms of use, or as otherwise required by law. ”

If anything, Yahoo! is holding up their end of the deal. Gee…I guess being a law-abiding business is somehow in violation of individual rights!! F that, man! You wanna b!tc# about liberties being violated?!?! Try going to a country like, say, China or some place in the Middle East (or many other places outside of America for that matter) where liberties are nearly non-existent and see if you complain when a corporation you acts within a contract to which you agreed!!!

America: Proudly from it, proudly fighting for it!

A Funny Guy / The Poison Pen says:

Re: The Devil made me sign up for Yahoo!

You so much missed the whole point. The point is not Yahoo’s terms of service.

The point is that Yahoo along with just about everybody else I know will do whatever is demanded of them if it is presented to them as a law.

Just because something is a law does not make it ethical or right or even legal. We have seen much evidence of this in America the past couple of years with many special interest creating situations that the hghest courts have to deal with..

Perhaps if people were to think more and question more and stand up and say no to these folk who think they can run our lives then this would be slowed down and/or even stopped.

Now i am not suggesting that you sholesale break the law no matter where you are…. however it is your right and more importantly, your responsibility to inform your leaders what you will and will not tolerate. And if they do not comply and you live in a republic or demoractic country then by all means use whatever leagl pressure (

and trust me, there are many pressures you can apply ) to force your government to comply with the wants of the people who elected them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The Devil made me sign up for Yahoo!

“Just because something is a law does not make it ethical or right or even legal.”


le-gal (n.)

1. Of, relating to, or concerned with law: legal papers.

2a.Authorized by or based on law: a legal right.

2b.Established by law; statutory: the legal owner.

3. In conformity with or permitted by law: legal business operations.

4. Recognized or enforced by law rather than by equity.

5. In terms of or created by the law: a legal offense.

6. Applicable to or characteristic of attorneys or their profession.

Anonymous Hero says:

Re: The Devil made me sign up for Yahoo!

Kind of like IBM helping the Nazi’s round up the Jews. Golly, they were just following the law!

The fact is, if Yahoo had a real aversion to doing these kinds of things, they could just not do business in China. But they are doing business there, knowing full what it will entail. So they have no excuse.

candle_86 says:

Kill a commie for mommy

When did the American people start acting like this, when did business start doing this. I’m young and don’t rember it different, but I’ve heard of a different place and time in America, when we actully fought for human rights, stood up for the opressed, and did good deads. Where is that America, blame it on the corparation, but those people in control where created by society, and how they where rasied. Corruption, and evil lies not at the feet of the Corparation or at the feet of the Government, it lays at the feet of every single human being, we create the problem when we dont act, when we condone it and when we ignore it. For sake stop pointing a finger, were all guilty of Yahoo’s actions, we created the beast with our un willingness to actully teach morales, today its not share and be friendly and look out for your buddy, its push the other guy in the mud and get rich, so it’s my fault and its your fault. If we dont want this happening agian, teach the next generation different than the last and things will be different.

jarel7200 says:


I don’t know what you guys expect Yahoo to do. Should Yahoo insist on applying American sensibilities and principles on the Chinese, Yahoo accomplishes what exactly?

If they don’t comply with local laws, they get thrown out of China, maybe a few executives get thrown in jail and Yahoo servers get confiscated. People who write on China Yahoo or any other China e-mail provider know the risk they run.

Americans should stop thinking they are right and everybody else who doesn’t agree with them is wrong. The mere presence of Yahoo and other Western corporations in China will provide more impetus to providing personal freedoms, but it will take time.

The China of 20 years ago and that of today is remarkably different. More positive changes will happen with time. Face-to-face confrontation is not the way to help make this happen, especially when you know it’s a losing game for the Western entities.


American says:

Re: Yahoosux

jarel7200 said: “Americans should stop thinking they are right and everybody else who doesn’t agree with them is wrong.”… Why? Everyone has the right to believe that they are right. Why do something you aren’t sure of?

If nobody believed they were right, nothing would ever get done. …And there is no single opinion that ALL Americans have. Some Americans have posted that Yahoo is right, some have posted that it is wrong. Each person posting believes they are right.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Yahoosux

“Why? Everyone has the right to believe that they are right. Why do something you aren’t sure of? ”

Believing you are right and knowing you are is different. To know you are right, you have to approach every different opinion with impartiality. I believe what he criticized is the automatic dismissal of different opinions by many people.

jarel7200 says:

Re: Re: Yahoosux

I don’t know how young and innocent you guys are, but it’s nice to know that if you were CEO’s of these American corporations you would pull out of China as a matter of principle.

Oh! I take it you guys (as a matter of principle) don’t buy any products from China because many of these products are produced in Chinese owned work farms made up mostly of young women (with NO worker rights of any kind). They work 12 to 18 hour days at abysmal wages. These people generally live far from their homes in dilapidated collective dorms of 16 or so people per room. Once the workers get a little older (no more than 30 years of age) and can’t keep up with the daily quota they are required to maintain, they are fired and forced to find their own way back home. Let’s not even mentioned the pirated software or false designer clothing, etc. that we don’t buy.

You might feel better at buying American and other Western corporation products made in China as working conditions and pay are much better in these modern factories and offices.

These companies ARE having a positive impact upon the Chinese people and their government. But no, let’s take these corporation out of China too, since we don’t agree with how the Chinese government oppresses its people. Heaven forbid these Western companies might have to obey local laws and cooperate with the Chinese government in some distasteful act.

It’s a matter of principle, you know. Nothing is more important than holding to our American/Christian principles regardless of who or how they impact people far, far away.

Chris Grey says:

Yahoo draft e-mail

OK. It is absolutely terrible that Yahoo have turned over a draft e-mail to the Chinese authorities. Even more terrible is that the Chinese authorities choose to seek this draft e-mail to use against someone. Even more terrible than that is the thought that a draft e-mail could possibly be grounds for any legal action against an individual (what crime have they committed?).

However I have to say that anyone who is thinking thoughts that could get them into trouble, in a country where people have already been arrested using evidence gathered from Yahoo, has to be pretty stupid if they then use Yahoo for e-mail whether they sent it or just typed it.

Wake up and smell the coffee Chinese disidents. If you want to criticise your regime don’t use Yahoo to do it.

BennyTB9 (user link) says:

Fighting for what's right isn't always easy

I don’t think it’s Yahoo!’s responsibilty to fight for what is right. 90 percent of the posts have decried what China does but none of them suggest a good way to deal with it.

No one can stop china but their own people. Once the Chinese people push back against a represive Gov’t then there may be change. I’m not syaing it is simple. The Communists have a way of controlling almost everyone.

It’s just a huge pyramid scheme. Only instead of exploiting the people below you in the pyramid for money you are oppressing them into submission. Everyone is watching everyone else in they hopes that they can turn them in and move up the pyramid.

I do believe that as capitalism pushes into China it will become more difficult for the Gov’t to oppress. The open market will also lead to open discussions. Not only of how to get more money(Everyone is greedy) but also how to live freely.

I don’t think a Gov’t should put someone in jail (or worse) for wanting or even trying to get a Gov’t official booted. Now if you talk about killing someone, yeah you should be in jail, I don’t think any one peson should decide who lives or dies.

And has anyone taken the time to check over Google’s(MSN,AOL, other ISP/E-mail service) TOA to see if the Lawyers put the same CMA statement in it?

Well enough of this guard bum’s ranting. One more quick thing though I am keeping Yahoo!, I have agreed to the TOA and will accept the consequences. I don’t have anything to hide from the Gov’t. There’s not much they don’t already know since I’m Military 🙂

guardsman85 says:

Re: RE: China Tells Yahoo All Your Drafts Are Belo

The case of the soldier that was killed is different. Yahoo! had no legal grounds to give the family the information. In fact, they were legally bound to NOT release the information! Before you go to combat you are given to grant someone power of attorney. If the soldier didn’t grant his parents that power, then Yahoo! is NOT legally obligated to give up his infomation! Again, Yahoo! is following their Terms of Service and Privacy Policy…what’s wrong with that?

Anon says:

You know, I truely argue here that US businesses lay down too much to China, but call me crazy for raising the one point here that everyone avoids.

If a US district attorney gets a court ordered warrant for email, a company must turn it over, whether they want to or not, at least, if that person is under US jurisdiction.

Honestly, if they are operating in China, how can they ignore government orders on their own citizens and expect to not be blocked by China’s firewall.

Where the blame goes is at companies who have made China a market in the first place. Companies should now see that there is only one solution if they don’t want to be censorship lapdogs of totalitarianism, and that’s to pull out. It all comes down to greed. And, even Google cannot ignore it. If one pulls out, the other two will crush them (MSN, Yahoo, Google). They have to get together and decide to pull out. However, I don’t see MSN ever having a conscience, and Yahoo’s is almost non-existant.

At this point, I pity Google, who’s hand is forced here (at least they aren’t turning over emails and are even fighting US attorneys who try to get at user data). Ideology by leaving China would put them at a great disadvantage by losing the world’s second biggest net market.

David Stutter says:

Easy Now

“At this point, I pity Google, who’s hand is forced here (at least they aren’t turning over emails and are even fighting US attorneys who try to get at user data).”

Let’s remember. The Yahoo! draft email episode happened in 2003. Gmail didn’t even publicly exist yet. Google just recently put their servers in China.

The Google/China relationship is young and Google so far has disappointed most with their Chinese Communist-sensitive search results.

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