A free daily digest of the biggest news stories of the day - and the best features from our website
Thank you for signing up to TheWeek. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.
Yahoo built a program to search all of its customers' incoming emails for a specific combination of characters at the request of the U.S. government last year, people familiar with the situation revealed to Reuters. The surveillance program scanned emails in real time for the characters that intelligence officials had identified.
The program was written without the involvement of Yahoo's security team, meaning when the siphon was discovered in May 2015, security originally thought it was put in the system by hackers. Former Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos subsequently resigned from Yahoo, citing his exclusion from a decision that made users' emails vulnerable. He claimed a programming flaw made stored emails accessible to hackers.
Phone and internet companies sometimes turn over customer data to the government to assist in situations such as preventing terrorism, but usually the searches are much more limited, or only of stored emails. Yahoo could have theoretically fought the government's directive, citing the enormous breadth of the demand or the need to write a new program to scan all incoming emails, but people familiar with the decision told Reuters the executives decided to comply because they thought they would lose the case.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
"Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request," Reuters writes.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.