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Report: Yahoo customers in the dark as email scanned for NSA

Yahoo scanning emails for NSA?

Yahoo (YHOO) is making headlines again, and probably not in a way its would-be acquirer Verizon (VZ) would likely prefer.

Less than two weeks after its disclosure of a security breach involving at least 500 million customers, the internet company is seemingly confirming, albeit it in an indirection fashion, a Reuters report that it developed a program last year to search its customers’ emails for specific information sought by U.S. intelligence officials. 

At least 500 million Yahoo accounts hacked

Reuters, citing unnamed people it said were familiar with the matter, reported that Yahoo complied with a classified U.S. government directive in scanning hundreds of millions of email accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency (NSA) or the FBI.

Asked for comment, the company cryptically stated: “Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States.”

On Wednesday, Yahoo followed up with another statement, calling the Reuters article “misleading.” 

“We narrowly interpret every government request for user data to minimize disclosure,” the company said. “The mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems.”  

Yahoo rival Google had a far different take on the situation, saying in a tweet that it had not received such a request, but if it did, “our response would be simple: ‘no way’.”

According to two former Yahoo employees quoted by Reuters, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to obey the directive roiled some senior executives and led to the June 2015 departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds that position at Facebook (FB).

The latest headlines involving the company come as it readies to close a deal to be acquired by telecommunications giant Verizon, which in July said it would buy Yahoo’s internet business for $4.8 billion.

Verizon late last month said it would evaluate its interests and those of its customers and shareholders in the wake of news stories on the massive hack of Yahoo email accounts. On Tuesday, Verizon said it had no comment on the report involving scanned emails. 

Shares of Verizon on Tuesday lost 62 cents, or 1.2 percent, to close at $51.26, while Yahoo added 5 cents, or 0.1 percent, to finish at $43.18 a share.

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