Not Yahoo again. Just when some are thinking that Yahoo’s revelation that it was hacked and that about 500 million user accounts may have been compromised, it’s now facing yet another security/privacy scandal. User records like birthday, security questions, alternate email, user names, passwords among other data were stolen back in 2014 and we only heard of it in late last month. Many saw this as unacceptable to the extent that a US Senator said Yahoo should be investigated to ascertain if they covered this up just for the Verizon deal to pull through first.
As if that wasn’t enough, on Tuesday, Reuters reported that Yahoo helped government agencies spy on them without their knowledge and when allegations started surfacing in 2013 after the Snowden leaks, they were one of the many tech companies who came out against the government, so it’s all been one long game and that’s what makes users really angry. They did this by building a software to sniff through all emails passing through its servers for the purpose of sending them to government agencies. Now the report doesn’t say which one buts it’s likely the National Security Agency (NSA) or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). What we do know is that this may have happened last year.
Experts say this is the first case of an American internet company to comply willfully with government requests. It is believed that Yahoo is not the only company to have received such requests and to quickly exonerate themselves, Microsoft and Google which both have a high number of email users on its platform came out to say they haven’t and don’t conduct such searches on its servers. Remember Yahoo was one of the companies to come out in 2013 to say they were opposed to government surveillance so I guess time will tell.
The NSA before now used to collect a really big amount of phone data from citizens and leaders from around the world but supposedly ended that practice recently to now focus on other intelligence sources. While government agencies use a backdoor into servers of tech companies sometimes, it has not been heard of before now that a tech company would build a software to actually assist the government do this.
Users often understand sometimes why surveillance should be carried out but abuse and invasion of privacy is the big challenge here. This comes back to the debate of security vs. privacy which I think will be an endless one seeing as our world is getting more dangerous too.
In response to the Reuters report, they said, “Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States,” the company said in a brief statement in response to Reuters questions about the demand. Yahoo declined any further comment.
Possible consequences for Yahoo
- The first one is that people could delete their accounts eventually or just underuse it. This is quite serious as sites like Business Insider are already showing users how to delete their Yahoo accounts.
- Long litigation against Yahoo from users
- Verizon will abandon the deal as Yahoo may eventually become a liability
- Yahoo will eventually sell for far less price than the $4.8b Verizon announced
- If no one acquires it, it’ll declare bankruptcy and go out of business eventually.
This article from Business Insider shows you how to go about deleting your Yahoo account.