Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter.
The company complied with a classified U.S. government directive, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said two former employees and a third person apprised of the events.
Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to a spy agency’s demand by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.
Ars Technica contacted various technology companies to ask them if they were ever subjected to the same FBI demands:
A spokeswoman for Microsoft, Kim Kurseman, e-mailed Ars this statement, and also declined further questions: â€œWe have never engaged in the secret scanning of email traffic like what has been reported today about Yahoo.â€
For its part, Google was the most unequivocal. Spokesman Aaron Stein e-mailed: “We’ve never received such a request, but if we did, our response would be simple: ‘no way.'”