Last year, Yahoo Inc. built a software program to search hundreds of millions of customers’ incoming emails for specific information, according to Reuters.
According to two former employees and a third person who knew of the events, Yahoo was working with a National Security Agency or FBI to scan the Yahoo Mail accounts for a certain set of characters. It is still unknown what the phrase was.
The demand to search the accounts came as a classified directive sent to the company's legal team, according to the three people familiar with the matter.
Reuters couldn’t determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.
Based on the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, agencies can ask U.S. internet and phone companies to provide data to aid intelligence-gathering.
In 2007, Yahoo fought back against FISA who demanded that it conduct searches on specific email accounts without a warrant. The details were sealed but a partially redacted opinion showed Yahoo's challenge was unsuccessful.
The program was discovered by Yahoo’s security team in May, who initially thought it was the work of hackers, according to the sources, who also said that this decision led to the June departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos.
Yahoo Tech published Foreign Policy’s version of the story on its own site.
This story is developing.