Yahoo discloses user data requests from US law enforcement agencies

Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple have also provided similar data

By , IDG News Service |  Security

Yahoo has received between 12,000 to 13,000 requests for user data from law enforcement agencies in the U.S. between Dec. 1 and May 31 this year, the company said Monday.

The most common of these requests concerned fraud, homicides, kidnappings, and other criminal investigations, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and General Counsel Ron Bell wrote in a blog post.

The company did not disclose how many of the requests for customer data were under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which has been at the center of a controversy after reports surfaced that the government was collecting data from a large number of users under the Act, including call metadata from telephone customers of Verizon.

"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," the executives wrote.

The Internet company joins other companies like Apple, Facebook and Microsoft that disclosed similar numbers over the weekend in a bid to convey greater transparency to their users, after reports in the Guardian and the Washington Post alleged that the U.S. National Security Agency has real-time access to content on the servers of Google, Facebook and other Internet companies as part of a surveillance program called Prism. The companies have denied their participation. (

Following widespread criticism of the U.S. government's surveillance programs and the role of the Internet companies, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft last week called for greater transparency in disclosure of data on government requests for customer information.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller, Google's Chief Legal Officer David Drummond, for example, asked that the company should be allowed to publish in its Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including disclosures under FISA, in terms of both the numbers received and their scope. Government restrictions on disclosure of the information has fueled speculation "that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users' data," Drummond added.

After obtaining limited permission from U.S. authorities, Facebook and Microsoft released data on requests from the government, but both didn't say how many were related to national security.

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