Report: Yahoo Policing for Profit

Stephen Yagielowicz
LOS ANGELES — Attorneys for Yahoo have reportedly issued a DMCA takedown notice to a security website that has posted what is described as the search giant's menu of surveillance services that it provides to law enforcement — for a fee.

Cryptome published the leaked 17-page document after authorities denied a freedom of information act (FOIA) request for the file, due to objections from Yahoo, which cite the publication as a breach of copyright and the aid to criminals that the guide presents.

According to its website, "Cryptome welcomes documents for publication that are prohibited by governments worldwide, in particular material on freedom of expression, privacy, cryptology, dual-use technologies, national security, intelligence, and secret governance — open, secret and classified documents — but not limited to those."

The Yahoo document details the company's data retention policies along with the various user surveillance capabilities it offers to law enforcement, as well as pricing for those services. Cryptome also published spying guides detailing the practices of Cingular, Cox, Cricket, GTE, Nextel and Pacific Telesis, but Yahoo is the only company to object and demand the document's removal.

Cryptome Owner John Young is defiant, responding to Yahoo, "I cannot find at the Copyright Office a grant of copyright for the Yahoo spying document hosted on Cryptome. To assure readers Yahoo's copyright claim is valid and not another hoary bluff without substantiation so common under DMCA bombast please send a copy of the copyright grant for publication on Cryptome.

Until Yahoo provides proof of copyright, the document will remain available to the public for it provides information that is in the public interest about Yahoo's contradictory privacy policy and should remain a topic of public debate on ISP unacknowledged spying complicity with officials for lucrative fees."

The controversy erupted when Christopher Soghoian, a graduate student at Indiana University, filed a FOIA request for the pricing lists provided by telecoms and ISPs for surveillance services on behalf of government agencies.

Yahoo objected, reportedly stating that the information would "shame Yahoo! and other companies — and shock their customers," adding that "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."

The Yahoo snooping fee is said to range from $30 - $40 for access to a subscriber's account, including his or her emails. $40 - $80 will give investigators access to an entire Yahoo group.