In an unprecedented move, Yahoo allegedly built custom software for the US government to help its spy agencies look for specific information in all of its customers' emails.
A report from Reuters claims Yahoo built the program last year at the behest of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). Reuters learned about Yahoo's actions through interviews with two anonymous ex-Yahoo employees and another anonymous source familiar with the matter.
Yahoo Mail for Windows "Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States," said a Yahoo spokesperson speaking with TechRadar.
While technically legal according to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), Yahoo's move to allow real-time mass surveillance of its users is unprecedented. It's also unknown what exactly the FBI and NSA were looking for.
The revelation is shocking as no major technology company has allowed such broad access to its users before, setting a dangerous precedent. Traditionally, the US government has approached companies for specific user data on a case-by-case basis.
"Experts said it was likely that the NSA or FBI had approached other Internet companies with the same demand, since they evidently did not know what email accounts were being used by the target," according to Reuters.
Fighting for user privacy
Today's report reignites the conversation about whether technology companies should build a backdoor into its security systems for government use. Last year, Apple fought against the FBI when it refused to create a special program for the agency to break into a terrorist'siPhone. Apple argued that a backdoor for the government would invite attacks from criminals and foreign governments. The FBIdropped its case against Apple after a third-party helped unlock the phone.