Privacy Law

Secret warrant from intelligence court reportedly authorized Yahoo email scans

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A secret warrant reportedly issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court last year authorized Yahoo scans of emails for specific information requested by the U.S. government, according to two anonymous government officials.

The warrant was issued under the authority of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, two unnamed officials told Reuters. Section 702 governs data involving a foreign target under surveillance. The provision will expire at the end of 2017 unless Congress renews it.

Two unnamed officials also told the New York Times that the warrant had been issued by a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The court order required Yahoo to search for messages containing a unique digital signature tied to a state-sponsored terrorist group, unnamed sources told the New York Times. The order did not allow Yahoo to disclose the program, which is no longer operating.

The order was apparently issued before Congress passed a law in June 2015 requiring novel and significant rulings of the intelligence court to be made public.

Yahoo issued a statement after Reuters reported on the email scanning that called the story “misleading.”

“We narrowly interpret every government request for user data to minimize disclosure,” the Yahoo statement said. “The mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems.” Yahoo did not elaborate on how the story was misleading or whether the email scanning previously existed.

Former Yahoo employees had told Reuters that security staff disabled the scanning program after they discovered it.

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