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Yahoo! is attempting to put to rest fears that its decision to recycle unused user IDs will leave users exposed to hackers.
The primary reason people don’t have to worry, the company says, is because only seven percent of the IDs are tied to actual Yahoo! email accounts.
The fears were sparked late last week, when the company announced that it would be releasing user IDs that have been inactive for more than 12 months so that other people can claim them. Critics claimed that the people picking up the recycled IDs could also assume the identities of their previous owners.
Even the idea of Yahoo! recycling the IDs raised the ire of some ordinary users.
Hey, Yahoo, YOU canceled my account — pissing me off then — and now YOU are going to recycle it — pissing me off now.
— Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) June 20, 2013
Yahoo! says however that it’s gone to great lengths to ensure that this doesn’t happen. Among the measures it’s taken are liaising with competitors Amazon and Google to make sure the risk of identity theft is minimal.
The possibility of identity theft is “something we are aware of and we’ve gone through a bunch of different steps to mitigate that concern,” said Dylan Casey, a senior director for consumer platforms told Reuters. “We put a lot of thought, a lot of resources dedicated to this project.”
But some critics reckon that if an inactive Yahoo! email is associated with a Google account, then hackers could gain access to the Gmail account and a whole host of other services associated with it.
Wire Magazine writer Mat Honan, who was victim of a devastating attack, called the plan a “spectacularly bad idea.”
“This is going to lead to a social engineering gold rush come mid-July,” Honan wrote, referring to hacker tactic of obtaining passwords by deceiving people rather than cracking codes.
According to Casey however, the vast majority of inactive Yahoo! accounts are used for services such as Fantasy Sports and not email. He also said that Yahoo! would be unsubscribing the inactive accounts from mailing lists so that their new owners will not receive unwanted mail.
“Can I tell you with 100% certainty that it’s absolutely impossible for anything to happen? No. But we’re going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that nothing bad happens to our users,” Casey said.
If you have an inactive Yahoo! account you also have a little time to reclaim it.