Yahoo Transparency Report Shows Germany’s Personal Data Desire

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Yahoo releases its first transparency report and the UK isn’t in the top two for data requests for a change

Despite being a nation fearful of government intrusion into people’s private lives, Germany made more than twice as many requests for Yahoo customer data than the UK.

The German government lodged 4,295 requests in the first half of this year, getting its hands on at least some Yahoo user data in over 3,000 cases, according to the company’s first Transparency Report. In issuing a table of the data requests it has received form governments, Yahoo is following Google, Twitter, Microsoft and Facebook, all of which publish similar transparency reports.

Yahoo transparency

Yahoo - Shutterstock - © Eric Broder Van DykeIt didn’t match the US, which made 12,444 requests, but it was still second, which could be bad news for the Merkel government, which has received bad press for revelations on its work with American intelligence, in the run up to the German election.

The UK made 1,709 requests, receiving at least some information in just over 1,000 cases. In 456 cases, Yahoo rejected the UK authorities’ demands for data.

“As we gain a fuller picture of how internet companies are assisting UK law enforcement (thanks to the companies themselves, not the British authorities) it is impossible to say that the current system is operating properly,” the Big Brother Watch said in a blog post.

“Thousands of requests are being refused every year by the various communications companies who now publish transparency reports.

“The more we learn – from companies – the bigger the questions become for British authorities. Perhaps the most pertinent of all is this – will the regulator, the Interception of Communications Commissioner – do anything to find out why so many requests are being made by British police and refused by the companies involved.”

Yahoo has been particularly keen to clear itself of any claims of willful collusion with intelligence bodies. The Obama administration recently agreed to declassify documents relating to a 2008 case, when Yahoo was ordered to submit data to US intelligence agencies.

Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has won a battle to release hundreds of documents related to US National Security Agency spying.

“The Justice Department may attempt to portray this release as being done out of the goodness of its heart and as a testament to its commitment to transparency,” the EFF said in a blog post.

“While we applaud the government for finally releasing the opinions, it is not simply a case of magnanimity. The Justice Department is releasing this information because a court has ordered it to do so.”

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