Yahoo Release User Data Request Transparency Report
September 8, 2013

Yahoo Has Received Over 12K Government Information Requests This Year

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

US federal officials requested data on more than 40,000 Yahoo users during the first six months of 2013, the web portal announced Friday as part of their first government transparency report.

According to Washington Post reporter Hayley Tsukayama, Yahoo revealed that it had received 12,444 requests for data pertaining to the accounts of 40,322 users between January 1 and June 30 of this year. The Sunnyvale, California-based Internet company first rejected only two percent of those requests, she added.

National security requests such as those sought by the NSA are included in the numbers, but according to Chris Welch of The Verge, Yahoo said that they were unable to reveal specific details about which organizations requested information. In addition, the firm said that statistics pertaining to Tumblr, which was recently acquired, were not included in the report. Welch said that the blogging platform would issue a separate report in the near future.

Content (emails, Flickr uploads, and data from Yahoo Answers, for example) was disclosed for 37 percent of the requests that were not rejected, while non-content data (basic subscriber information such as names, locations, email addresses and IP addresses) was disclosed for 55 percent of the requests, the Wall Street Journal reported. Six percent of the requests had no data found, meaning that the request was for a non-existent account, or one that had no activity during the time period.

“The company also shared the number of requests it received from the governments of 16 other countries,” Tsukayama said. “The statistics do not include Yahoo properties that have received fewer than nine requests in the reporting period, excluding Yahoo Columbia and Yahoo Hispanic America. It also omits data from Yahoo Japan, in which Yahoo now owns a minority stake.”

“Our legal department demands that government data requests be made through lawful means and for lawful purposes. We regularly push back against improper requests for user data, including fighting requests that are unclear, improper, overbroad or unlawful,” Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell explained in a blog post. “Democracy demands accountability, and accountability requires transparency. We hope our report encourages governments around the world to more openly share information about the requests they make for users’ information.”

The company said that they plan to update the transparency report every six months. Furthermore, Welch said that Yahoo has vowed to provide more specific details in the report if permitted to do so by the US government.