Bangalore: In its first transparency report released on Friday Yahoo Inc. said the internet firm had not joined any government programme to voluntarily share data about its users, and added that in the first six months of the year India made 2704 data requests.
Over past few months, the world’s biggest technology and Internet firms have been facing criticism from users and activists about their role in helping governments collect user data. The US spying programs have been facing a backlash in particular, which involved surveillance carried by the National Security Agency.
“Our legal department demands that government data requests be made through lawful means and for lawful purposes. We regularly push back against improper requests for user data, including fighting requests that are unclear, improper, overbroad or unlawful,” Ron Bell, general Counsel of Yahoo said in a blog post on Friday.
“In addition, we mounted a two-year legal challenge to the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and recently won a motion requiring the US government to consider further declassifying court documents from that case,” Bell added.
In India, Yahoo shared “only Non-content data” for 494 requests by the government where a user’s basis information captured at the time of account registration (alternate email address, billing details and IP address) were shared. Yahoo also rejected 500 of the Indian government’s data requests.
According to Yahoo’s first transparency report, the company shared “content” data for 341 email accounts during January to June period this year. The details shared included almost all activities carried out by users across different Yahoo products and services.
Yahoo described “content data” as data that “our users create, communicate, and store on or through our services. This could include words in a communication (e.g., Mail or Messenger), photos on Flickr, files uploaded, Yahoo Address Book entries, Yahoo Calendar event details, thoughts recorded in Yahoo Notepad or comments or posts on Yahoo Answers or any other Yahoo property,” Yahoo said.
“Democracy demands accountability, and accountability requires transparency. We hope our report encourages governments around the world to more openly share information about the requests they make for users’ information,” Bell said in his blog post.
The US accounted for most data requests (12,444) during the first six months of this year, followed by Germany (4295), Italy (2637), Taiwan (1942) and France (1855).
Last month, Facebook said in its first transparency report that India ranked second in seeking data requests about its users. According to Facebook’s ‘Global Governments Requests Report’ for the January to June period this year, Indian government made 3245 data requests