Yahoo spied on emails

Note that until very recently Xtra emails went via Yahoo.

Reuters: Exclusive: Yahoo secretly scanned customer emails for U.S. intelligence – sources

Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company complied with a classified U.S. government directive, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said two former employees and a third person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to a spy agency’s demand by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.

It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified.

This raises some important issues, like who else does this spying for spy agencies.

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. The NSA usually makes requests for domestic surveillance through the FBI, so it is hard to know which agency is seeking the information.

Reuters was unable to confirm whether the 2015 demand went to other companies, or if any complied.

Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp, two major U.S. email service providers, did not respond to requests for comment.

That’s also a concern, for US email users anyway. What about New Zealand email users?

But we all knew that our emails were at risk of being snooped on, didn’t we.


Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  5th October 2016

    The only surprise is that someone inside has talked about it.

  2. Zedd

     /  5th October 2016

    there are many other alternatives to : google, yahoo & xtra etc.

    eg Mozilla,, duck-duck-go etc.

    OR you could even try Ubuntu (not windows) Linux 🙂

    ‘there are many rivers to cross…’ 😀

  3. Kitty Catkin

     /  5th October 2016

    I have mixed feelings about this. If words like explosion, massacre, bomb etc are picked up-and it’s impossible to believe that anyone would be remotely interested in any email of mine except the recipient-then does the end justify the means ? I understand that there is a list of words that are picked up. I suppose that if I said that one never seemed to see people driving old bombs of cars nowadays, the word bomb would be picked up. I’d rather that these words were picked up and potential massacres averted. And it would be a computer, some poor people wouldn’t have to read ? million emails.

    But I suppose that a terrorist would put it in code-if we know this, they would. I don’t suppose that the IRA said that the bombs were ready for Hyde Park when they made phonecalls, they’d say that the delivery to Jekyll St was ready

  4. MaureenW

     /  5th October 2016

    I guess this is akin to government agents going through everyone’s letter boxes in case you have something nasty in there and peeping through your windows.
    Oh, that’s right, our “smart” devices already do this.
    Personally I resent the invasion of privacy and wonder what’s coming next?

    • Gezza

       /  5th October 2016

      Seems to me unless we want to live offline and never use a phone most of us have pretty much already lost our privacy Maureen – to private service providers, call centres, website owners, and security agencies. As that recent article in the Herald on the Chinese spy ship in port at Auckland pointed out, even the watchers and listeners are watching and listening to each other. Seems like as soon as someone finds a way to protect their privacy online, somebody pretty soon finds another way to break in. And sells it.

  5. patupaiarehe

     /  5th October 2016


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: