Yahoo Asks for Transparency From U.S. After E-Mail Scan Report

Yahoo! Inc. demanded more transparency from the federal government after reports surfaced earlier this month saying the company had built a software program to scan customers’ incoming e-mails for U.S. intelligence agencies.

Yahoo, in a letter to ­James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, “is formally urging that the U.S. government provide its citizens with clarification around national security orders they issue to internet companies to obtain user data,” the company said Wednesday in a statement. “While the letter makes specific reference to recent allegations against Yahoo, it is intended to set a stronger precedent of transparency for our users and all citizens who could be affected by government requests for user data.”

Reuters reported Oct. 4 that Yahoo complied with U.S. government orders to scan hundreds of millions of e-mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or Federal Bureau of Investigation. Intelligence officials wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters, and that could mean a phrase in an e-mail or an attachment, according to the article, which cited anonymous sources.

Yahoo on Wednesday repeated its assertion that the recent press reports were “misleading” and that the mail scanning described in the article doesn’t exist on its systems.

­Technology companies were criticized in 2013 for cooperating with intelligence officials after Edward Snowden revealed classified documents that outlined U.S. government surveillance programs, including some that involved internet and telecommunications companies assisting in collecting data from private citizens.

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