Like Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and more, Yahoo is the latest tech company to release a transparency report in light of the recent allegations that they were involved in the NSA's secret surveillance & data-mining initiative, PRISM.
Yahoo reports between 12,000 and 13,000 individual requests in the past 6 months - those figures include national security requests as well as requests from law enforcement for Yahoo to aid in kidnappings, homicides, and other types of investigations.
Here's the short statement of "commitment to users' privacy" that Marissa Mayer and General Counsel Ron Bell just issued:
We’ve worked hard over the years to earn our users’ trust and we fight hard to preserve it.
To that end, we are disclosing the total number of requests for user data that law enforcement agencies in the U.S. made to us between December 1, 2012 and May 31, 2013. During that time period, we received between 12,000 and 13,000 requests, inclusive of criminal, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and other requests. The most common of these requests concerned fraud, homicides, kidnappings, and other criminal investigations.
Like all companies, Yahoo! cannot lawfully break out FISA request numbers at this time because those numbers are classified; however, we strongly urge the federal government to reconsider its stance on this issue.
Democracy demands accountability. Recognizing the important role that Yahoo! can play in ensuring accountability, we will issue later this summer our first global law enforcement transparency report, which will cover the first half of the year. We will refresh this report with current statistics twice a year.
As always, we will continually evaluate whether further actions can be taken to protect the privacy of our users and our ability to defend it. We appreciate - and do not take for granted—the trust you place in us.
Like Facebook and Apple, Yahoo is simply letting us know the total number of governmental requests for user data it received - not the specific amount of national security-related requests. Those FISA requests are still classified. Of course, Yahoo joins Facebook and other is demanding that the federal government allows tech companies to reports specific figures on national security requests.
Last week we learned that back in 2008, Yahoo fought the good fight but failed against PRISM. Redacted FISA documents reveal that Yahoo challenged the surveillance program, calling it a violation of users Fourth Amendment rights.