A little-noticed letter from Yahoo! to the US Marshals Service offers troubling insight into the surveillance policies of one of the Internet’s largest email providers.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request seeking details of Yahoo’s! policies allowing the Justice Department to request wiretaps of its users and the amount they charge US taxpayers per wiretap — the search engine leviathan declared in a 12-page letter that they couldn’t provide information on their approach because their pricing scheme would “shock” customers. The news was first reported by Kim Zetter at Wired.
“It is reasonable to assume from these comments that the [pricing] information, if disclosed, would be used to “shame” Yahoo! and other companies — and to “shock” their customers,” a lawyer for the company writes. “Therefore, release of Yahoo!’s information is reasonably likely to lead to impairment of its reputation for protection of user privacy and security, which is a competitive disadvantage for technology companies.”
Yahoo! also argues that because their price sheet for wiretaps was “voluntarily submitted” to the US Marshals Service, it is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act law.
Verizon, meanwhile, says (letter PDF) they can’t provide details on how much they charge for wiretaps because it would be “confusing.”
“Customers may see a listing of records, information or assistance that is available only to law enforcement,” Verizon writes, “but call in to Verizon and seek those same services. Such calls would stretch limited resources, especially those that are reserved only for law enforcement emergencies.”
Consumers might “become unnecessarily afraid that their lines have been tapped or call Verizon to ask if their lines are tapped (a question we cannot answer),” the telecom giant adds.
Verizon also revealed it “receives tens of thousands of requests for customer records, or other customer information from law enforcement.”
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Tags: Corporations, eMails, Freedom of Information Act, Global News, Internet, Justice Department, New World Order, Politics, Privacy, Society, Surveillance, Taxpayers, U.S., Verizon, Yahoo