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Friday, September 6, 2013

Yahoo Releases Its First Government Transparency Report

Yahoo on Friday released its first government transparency report showing the number of requests about Yahoo users that it has received from global government agencies.

The report, which was published on the company’s corporate Web site, detailed the number of requests for data on users over the first six months of 2013. Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Facebook issue similar reports.

The United States led the number of requests, with 12,444 data requests that included 40,322 Yahoo accounts, the report said. Yahoo handed content-related data, including communications in Yahoo Mail or Messenger, photos on Flickr or Yahoo Address Book entries, over to American agencies in 4,604 cases. The company gave the government non-content related information, which includes a person’s name, location or Internet Protocol address, in 6,798 cases. The company declined only 2 percent of the requests to share the information.

In comparison to the high volume of requests from the United States, Canada made only 29 government data requests, which affected 43 Yahoo user accounts. The Yahoo report noted that countries including Britain, Mexico, New Zealand, India, Italy and Brazil were among those that made data requests.

“At Yahoo, we take user privacy seriously and appreciate our role as a global company in promoting freedom of expression wherever we do business,” the company said.

The report from Yahoo was the latest in a string of transparency reports from Silicon Valley companies. The Yahoo report seems on par with other reports sharing the number of requests from government agencies around the world.

In late August, Facebook published a similar report that said in the first six months of 2013, government groups in 74 countries demanded information about more than 37,954 accounts on Facebook.

In July Twitter said it received 1,157 requests for data covering 1,697 users, and it turned over at least some data in 55 percent of the cases. The number of requests was up about 15 percent from the last six months of 2012, the company said.

Microsoft and Google have also issued reports about the government requests for information they have received.

In a separate blog post on the company’s site, Ron Bell, Yahoo’s general counsel, noted that the number of requests affect less than a hundredth of 1 percent of the company’s worldwide user base.

“We regularly push back against improper requests for user data, including fighting requests that are unclear, improper, overbroad or unlawful,” Mr. Bell wrote. “In addition, we mounted a two-year legal challenge to the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and recently won a motion requiring the U.S. government to consider further declassifying court documents from that case.”

“We plan to publish additional transparency reports every six months, and our team will continually evaluate ways in which we can enhance their utility,” Yahoo wrote in its report.