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Yahoo built a program to sift through user emails – report

Ailing internet firm Yahoo apparently built a program last year which sifts through all incoming emails on its service.

Yahoo complied with a US government order to build the custom program, Reuters reported, which scans for specific information in hundreds of millions of incoming emails. The tech firm was apparently conducting the scans for the FBI and NSA, who supplied the “specific” search information.

Yahoo’s email engineers were merely instructed to build and integrate the program by CEO Marissa Meyer and Yahoo’s General Counsel. In fact, these steps were apparently taken without the knowledge of Yahoo’s security team, sources told the publication.

In a strange move, the security team at Yahoo was apparently left out of the loop

The security team discovered the program a few weeks after it was installed, but initially thought that it was the work of hackers.

Sources told Reuters that Yahoo’s chief information security officer (Alex Stamos) resigned after the debacle. The executive, who now heads up Facebook’s security, apparently told subordinates that the program also had a flaw which would’ve allowed hackers to gain access.

The news comes a few weeks after the internet firm revealed that it was the victim of quite possibly the largest hack in history.

Yahoo revealed that a 2014 hack may have led to details of 500 million users being stolen.

A drastic step up for surveillance?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation watchdog has called the hack a new and “dangerous” expansion of mass surveillance.

The EFF also slammed the US government for claiming that warrantless surveillance of this nature only targets foreigners.

“Here, however, the government seems to have dispensed with that dubious facade by intentionally engaging in mass surveillance of purely domestic communications involving millions of Yahoo users.”

Author | Hadlee Simons

Hadlee Simons
Terrible puns make Hadlee Simons difficult to work with, but he brings almost seven years of tech journalism experience to the table. When he's not at work or watching motorsport, he's in the foetal position on a jiu jitsu mat. More