Yahoo Received Up to 13,000 Data Requests From U.S. Agencies

Yahoo! Inc., the largest U.S. Web portal, said it got as many as 13,000 requests for information from U.S. law enforcement agencies, becoming the latest technology company to detail government data collection.

The requests occurred in the six months ended May, with the most common types related to fraud, homicides and criminal investigations, Yahoo said in a posting on Tumblr. The company said it can’t lawfully break out Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requests, and it urged the U.S. government to reconsider its stance on the issue.

Yahoo joins Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp. in detailing thousands of warrants from government entities for data. The companies have come under scrutiny since Edward Snowden, a computer technician who did work for the National Security Agency, disclosed this month that the NSA is collecting data under a U.S. government program code-named PRISM.

“We’ve worked hard over the years to earn our users’ trust and we fight hard to preserve it,” Yahoo Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer and General Counsel Ron Bell said in the statement. “We will continually evaluate whether further actions can be taken to protect the privacy of our users and our ability to defend it.”

Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo said it plans to issue its first global law-enforcement transparency report later this year and will refresh it every six months with new statistics.

Secret Panel

PRISM gathers e-mails, videos and other private data of foreign surveillance targets through arrangements that vary by company, overseen by a secret panel of judges, according to slides provided by Snowden to the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers.

The three-decade-old FISA law lets intelligence agencies monitor the communications of non-U.S. citizens reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S. and involved in terrorist activities or other crimes.

Apple, the world’s most-valuable technology company, said it received as many as 5,000 requests for customer information from authorities. Those requests covered between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or devices, the company said in a statement.

“Like several other companies, we have asked the U.S. government for permission to report how many requests we receive related to national security and how we handle them,” Apple said in the statement earlier this week. “We have been authorized to share some of that data, and we are providing it here in the interest of transparency.”

Apple Response

Apple said it hadn’t heard of PRISM until June 6 when news organizations asked it questions. Requests came from federal, state and local authorities and included both criminal and national security matters, it said. Police investigations into crimes such as robbery were the most-common form of request, Apple said.

Facebook, owner of the world’s most popular social-networking service got 9,000 to 10,000 requests and covered between 18,000 and 19,000 accounts in the second half of last year. The numbers demonstrated that only a “tiny fraction” of the user base, which has grown to more than 1.1 billion, was affected, the company said last week.

Microsoft got 6,000 to 7,000 requests, its legal executives said in blog posts. The company said the data-security warrants affected 31,000 to 32,000 consumer accounts.

Google Inc., owner of the world’s largest search engine, hasn’t joined the recent wave of disclosures by technology rivals. The company said last week that it was pushing authorities to let it differentiate between varying types of government requests.

“Our request to the government is clear: to be able to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, separately,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.

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