EU ques­tions US over Ya­hoo email scan­ning, amid pri­vacy con­cerns

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

BRUS­SELS: The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has asked the United States about a se­cret court order Ya­hoo used to scan thou­sands of cus­tomer emails for pos­si­ble ter­ror­ism links, fol­low­ing con­cerns that may have vi­o­lated a new data trans­fer pact.

Un­der the Pri­vacy Shield agree­ment that came into force in Au­gust, the United States agreed to limit the col­lec­tion of and ac­cess to Euro­peans’ data stored on US servers be­cause of EU con­cerns about data pri­vacy and mass US sur­veil­lance.

The pre­vi­ous deal was thrown out by the EU’s top court in Oc­to­ber 2015, leav­ing thou­sands of firms scram­bling for le­gal ways to pro­vide data on trans­ac­tions rang­ing from credit cards to travel and e-com­merce that un­der­pin bil­lions of dol­lars of transat­lantic trade.

Reuters re­ported last month that Ya­hoo had scanned all in­com­ing cus­tomer emails in 2015 for a digital sig­na­ture linked to a for­eign state spon­sor of ter­ror­ism, at the be­hest of a se­cret court order. That raised fresh ques­tions about the scope of US spy­ing. “The Com­mis­sion ser­vices have con­tacted the US au­thor­i­ties to ask for a num­ber of clar­i­fi­ca­tions,” Com­mis­sion spokesman Chris­tian Wi­gand said.

The United States had pledged not to en­gage in mass, in­dis­crim­i­nate es­pi­onage, as­suag­ing Com­mis­sion con­cerns about the pri­vacy of Euro­peans’ data stored on US servers fol­low­ing dis­clo­sures of in­tru­sive US sur­veil­lance pro­grams in 2013 by for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency con­trac­tor Edward Snow­den.

Two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said the Com­mis­sion had now asked the United States to ex­plain how the Ya­hoo order fit­ted with its com­mit­ments, even if the pro­gram ran be­fore the Pri­vacy Shield was in place.

The Com­mis­sion was seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tions on the na­ture of the court order it­self and how tar­geted it was, said one per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter. An­other said it had also asked if the pro­gram was con­tin­u­ing. “The US will be held ac­count­able to these com­mit­ments both through re­view mech­a­nisms and through re­dress pos­si­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing the newly es­tab­lished Om­budsper­son mech­a­nism in the US State Depart­ment,” Wi­gand said. Pri­vacy Shield, which Ya­hoo has not signed up to, pro­vides for a joint an­nual re­view to en­sure the United States is re­spect­ing its com­mit­ment to limit the amount of data hov­ered up by US agents.

A se­nior US gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial said he could not con­firm or deny the re­ports about Ya­hoo, but said if true the sur­veil­lance would have been tar­geted at iden­ti­fy­ing ter­ror­ists while pro­tect­ing the pri­vacy of oth­ers. That would be “good in­tel­li­gence work,” he said.

—AP

SUN­NY­VALE, CAL­I­FOR­NIA: In this July 19, 2016, file photo, flow­ers bloom in front of a Ya­hoo sign at the com­pany’s head­quar­ters.

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