Yahoo’s first transparency report details US requests for user data

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Yahoo issued its first "transparency report" government requests for user data, and it shows that in the U.S. for the first six months of this year, there were 12,444 requests for data that covered 40,322 user accounts. The difference in the numbers is because some users have multiple accounts.

The company also said it is not including government data requests for Tumblr, the popular blogging platform it acquired in June, and that Tumblr "will issue a separate transparency report at a later date, and will issue its own additional reports on an ongoing basis."

Yahoo now joins companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter in issuing transparency reports to help assuage users' concerns in the wake of ongoing reports about the U.S. government surveillance of Americans' digital footprint.

Yahoo said it disclosed user content for 37 percent of the U.S. government requests. "Non-content data" — "such as basic subscriber information including the information captured at the time of registration such as an alternate e-mail address, name, location, and IP address, login details, billing information, and other transactional information (e.g., “to,” “from,” and “date” fields from email headers)" — was disclosed for 55 percent of the requests. 

Ron Bell, Yahoo general counsel, wrote in a blog post Friday that "the number of accounts specified in these government data requests ... comprised less than one one-hundredth of one percent (<.01%) of our worldwide user base."

"Our legal department demands that government data requests be made through lawful means and for lawful purposes," he wrote. "We regularly push back against improper requests for user data, including fighting requests that are unclear, improper, overbroad or unlawful."

Bell wrote that Yahoo has "mounted a two-year legal challenge to the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act" requiring the company to participate in the National Security Agency's PRISM surveillance program. Yahoo, in July, "won a motion requiring the U.S. Government to consider further declassifying court documents from that case," he wrote. 

Yahoo included four global regions in its report: Americas (the U.S. and Canada), Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin America. U.S. requests for data were the highest of the countries Yahoo listed. Germany was second, with 4,295 requests, followed by Italy, 2,637; Taiwan, 1,942; France, 1,855; the United Kingdom, 1,709; and India, 1,490.

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