Yahoo Asks James Clapper To Please Let It Talk About The Email Scanning It Did For The Government

from the 'it-already-sucks-enough-to-be-us' dept

After spending several days basking in the fiery glow of negative press (and seeing potential investors walk away from buying the company), Yahoo is asking the government to please please let it talk about the spying it apparently performed for the NSA or FBI.

Yahoo sent a letter to National Intelligence director James Clapper on Wednesday urging the U.S. government to provide clearer information to citizens on national security demands for user data.

Yahoo’s letter called for intelligence groups to confirm if future reported demands for data are real, and if they are, declassify them with context for the public.

Pots, kettles, and other analogous materials are rendered incomprehensible in its statement, which involves a media company implicitly criticizing other media companies.

In a letter today to James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Yahoo is formally urging that the U.S. government provide its citizens with clarification around national security orders they issue to internet companies to obtain user data.

While the letter makes specific reference to recent allegations against Yahoo, it is intended to set a stronger precedent of transparency for our users and all citizens who could be affected by government requests for user data. As we’ve said before, recent press reports have been misleading; the mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems.

"Does not exist" is not nearly the same thing as "did not exist." This means Yahoo is no longer scanning emails in this fashion, not that it never performed this scanning.

The letter does make a good point about transparency. Currently, Yahoo is unable to defend itself against any allegations because it is likely under a gag order. Yahoo would like Clapper's office to share in the public pain, especially since it had a problem sharing in the communications gathered on its behalf by the email provider.

Public embarrassment or not, Clapper's office is probably not rushing through a declassification review of this Section 702 FISA order. It could still be months or years before the government produces this document and/or allows Yahoo to speak openly about its email scanning program.

Perhaps recognizing that a displeased letter to the ODNI doesn't create much leverage, the company appears to be making this a global issue, rather than simply a domestic one. Marcy Wheeler points out that the letter mentions Yahoo's global reach and users several times and namechecks the EU's Privacy Shield agreement. This may be the key that loosens the Intelligence Community's Glomarred lips.

But there’s another reason why Clapper’s office — or rather ODNI General Counsel Bob Litt — may be so quiet.

Litt is the one who made many of the representations about US spying to authorities here [Wheeler is in Europe at the moment]. Someone — Litt, if he’s still around for a hearing that may take place under President Hillary — may also need to go testify under oath in an Irish court in conjunction with a lawsuit there. Whoever testifies will be asked about the kinds of surveillance implicating European users the government makes US companies do.

In other words, Bob Litt is the one who made certain representations to the European authorities. And now some of those same people are asking questions about how this scan complies with the terms Litt laid out.

Which makes his silence all the more instructive.

Someone's going to have to start talking about Yahoo's email scanning program soon. Yahoo obviously can't, which means the ODNI is going to have to address this on someone else's timetable. We already have US legislators demanding answers. European politicians are already unhappy about the apparent breach of the Privacy Shield Agreement. If the ODNI continues to avoid the issue, all it will be doing is letting a private company take the fall for its possible overreach.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 8:33am

    This is just a bunch of hand waving ..

    The words in the letter mean nothing. The deed has been done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lord Lidl of Cheem (profile), 26 Oct 2016 @ 8:38am

    You know, if corporate sovereignty were in place Yahoo would be able to take the US Government to the cleaners...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 3:28pm

      Re:

      > You know, if corporate sovereignty were in place Yahoo would be able to take the US Government to the cleaners...

      I imagine "national security" would prevail as it always does. It even trumps The Constitution.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 26 Oct 2016 @ 8:38am

    It would be interesting if the company ends up going belly up and dying because of this 'scandal'. Of course Yahoo isn't what you can call stable and successful these days but some real consequences for Govt overreach could spark more resistance and noise from other companies.

    I reiterate my earlier comment: just how much damage these programs have caused financially compared to the 'threats' they should be mitigating (terrorism et al)? My bet is that the US has lost tons of money already because of the excesses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 26 Oct 2016 @ 9:21am

      Re:

      taxpayers have lost money you mean. Those running things view using other people's money as a bottomless barrel to fund their illegal activities

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Name, 26 Oct 2016 @ 9:33am

      Re:

      Had an e-mail account with them since 2003 or 2005 and when I heard this I deleted my account. I'm sure they msde money off of me somehow in the past but not anymore. I'd be curious to know how many other people left.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 26 Oct 2016 @ 8:43am

    "does not exist on our systems."
    Does Yahoo have a secret room like AT&T?
    If so, technically true.
    It's not their systems, it's the NSA's.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whatever, 26 Oct 2016 @ 9:00am

    Surveillance is the answer. It's all Snowden's fault now that people know about it. Why does Techdirt keep speaking up for criminals?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      art guerrilla (profile), 26 Oct 2016 @ 9:41am

      Re: you got me !

      dog damn !
      i thought this was some fine satire, until i saw the moniker...
      you are beyond satire, whatevs...
      bot, i wonder ? ? ?
      one of a hundred pseudonyms by some gummint kontractor spoofing the commentard ? ? ?
      only the shadow gummint knows...
      hee hee hee
      ho ho ho
      ha ha ha
      ak ak ak

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 26 Oct 2016 @ 9:19am

    The context being they clearly have no respect for citizens basic rights.

    Of course people are just too stupid to realize they cannot have any rights when it comes to fighting terrorism. Otherwise what would have been the point of the government funding and setting up all those terrorist attacks if they didn't get the removal of basic rights as a result.

    Step 1: you create a problem

    Step 2: you talk about how horrible said problem is

    Step 3: you throw anyone used to create said problem under the bus, and fix it usually at the expense of civil liberties and basic rights that are now gone.

    Step 4: Enjoy ruling your new police state free of pesky things like opposite opinions, or people thinking they can stand up to you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    radarmonkey (profile), 26 Oct 2016 @ 11:04am

    My irony meter got broke .... again!

    Let us not forget the company begging for permission to talk to the public about a massive spying operation INTENTIONALLY kept its own security department in the blind when it had actually implemented one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 11:14am

      Re: My irony meter got broke .... again!

      Remember there are gaga orders, and they cover talking to people inside the company. They probably could not tell their security people without breaking the 'LAW'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 11:45am

    Obviously

    It must be quite damning to the gubment. After all they are the very ones always saying "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 1:29pm

    "In this fashion"

    "Does not exist" is not nearly the same thing as "did not exist." This means Yahoo is no longer scanning emails in this fashion

    Not in exactly this fashion. One minor reporting error would let Yahoo legitimately make this statement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 1:53pm

    "This means Yahoo is no longer scanning emails in this fashion, not that it never performed this scanning."

    Actually I think "on our systems" is the key part. It is probably a government supplied box "connected" to their systems.

    Do you really think that government had a dragnet email reading system up and somehow let it go? They would never do that.

    Look at what it took to stop them using general warrants last time. Power is taken..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 4:02pm

    Dear Mr. Clapper,

    What's the least untrue thing we can say about our recent relationship?

    Your humble boy-toy,

    --Yahoo!, Inc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 4:42pm

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 5:28pm

    The only way gag-orders are going to lose their "power" is when recipients go straight to the public regardless of the order, after all, it's the morally correct thing to do. They may attempt to imprison a few individuals at first, until they realize that no one us going to heed them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 26 Oct 2016 @ 5:59pm

    Oh noes, how terrible...

    If the ODNI continues to avoid the issue, all it will be doing is letting a private company take the fall for its possible overreach.

    And I've no doubt that the thought of a private company going under to cover for their actions has everyone in the government up at night, clutching their bedsheets in horror at the thought of what they've done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Whutevah, 26 Oct 2016 @ 8:47pm

      Re: Oh noes, how terrible...

      Actually, the thought of it will have me pitching a little (very little) pup tent under the bedsheets at night.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    CanadianByChoice (profile), 26 Oct 2016 @ 9:47pm

    RE: "In this fashion"

    The phrasing of their denial has two points of weasel words that can make their statement true ... sort of.
    First:
    ...recent press reports have been misleading...
    doesn't say the reports are wrong, only that they're misleading.
    Second:
    ...the mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems.
    does not deny that email scanning is (or was) taking place - it only denies that it's not being done as described in the article.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 10:54pm

    James Clapper, another bastion of truth, justice, and the American Way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    james (profile), 19 Dec 2016 @ 9:25pm

    Yahoo Technical Helpline Number

    As we all know, Yahoo mail service is very quick,fast and also trustable mail service.I also heard a news about yahoo email scanning.Its totally roumar,yahoo also send later to Govt. for remove this type of rumors.
    If you are also Yahoo user then you can visit here for improving your knowledge about Yahoo.
    Thank you for posting these type of informative thing about Yahoo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ham Loard, 23 May 2017 @ 10:44pm

    People Creating Yahoo Account

    It has been cleared this all was only rumours, Yahoo still getting so many requests for creating New Mail account. Creating Yahoo Mail is very easy with lots advanced benefits and 24*7 Support.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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