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Monday, June 17, 2013

The Latest to Disclose Government Requests, Yahoo Reveals the Least

Following in the footsteps of Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, Yahoo disclosed late Friday some broad data about the number of requests that American law enforcement authorities had made for data about its users.

From Dec. 1, 2012, to May 31, 2013, the Internet company received between 12,000 and 13,000 requests from the government, related to everything from local crimes to terrorism investigations under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. “The most common of these requests concerned fraud, homicides, kidnappings, and other criminal investigations,” the company said in a post on Tumblr, the blogging platform it recently acquired.

Unlike the other companies, which have been criticized for disclosing too little information, Yahoo did not specify how many users were included in the 12,000 to 13,000 requests.

But like the other companies, Yahoo said that the government would not permit it to break out more specific data on the number of FISA data requests, which the government considers so secret that companies aren’t supposed to even acknowledge their existence.

Yahoo went to a secret intelligence court in 2008 and challenged the government’s requests under FISA as unconstitutional, but lost the case. It subsequently joined the government’s secret Prism surveillance program.

In its post, signed by its chief executive, Marissa Mayer, and its general counsel, Ron Bell, Yahoo said it would continue to press for more disclosure of FISA data.

Yahoo said it would also issue later this summer its first global law enforcement transparency report, which will cover the first half of the year, and will continue making similar reports every six months.